Monday, May 14, 2018

Cocktails & Popcorn: Ice Cube, Stormy Daniels, Avenatti, Cohen, Flynn, Bannon, Qatar Investment Authority & Elmo

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Elmo & Ice Cube
On this exciting episode of Cocktails & Popcorn, it looks like we must definitely invite Elmo.

Here's how Ice Cube figures in the Trump-Cohen mess

Donald Trump was already facing a fierce battle from a prominent member of the porn industry.

Now he’s up against N.W.A.

The investigations into the Trump campaign’s links to Russia, and his lawyer Michael Cohen’s ties to deep-pocketed foreign investors, just introduced another potential star witness: Ice Cube.

On Sunday, Michael Avenatti, the media savvy lawyer for porn star Stormy Daniels, claimed Ahmed Al-Rumaihi, an investor managing billions for the government of Qatar, held a secret meeting in Trump Tower in December 2016 with Cohen — and tweeted out pictures and video supporting his assertion.

Avenatti suggested the supposed meeting with Cohen may have to do with other allegations hovering over the Qatari investor, namely political bribery.

That’s where Ice Cube — famed rapper, actor and entrepreneur — comes in. The hip-hop mogul and his business partner have brought a$1.2 billion lawsuit against Al-Rumaihi over a startup basketball league called BIG3.

Specifically, Ice Cube’s suit features testimony alleging that Al-Rumaihi tried to use the financial might of the government of Qatar to cement political ties with former Trump campaign chairman, Steve Bannon, and former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn.

Translation: Cube and his business partner may have key information relating to a Middle Eastern government’s attempts to buy political support from people who once served at the highest levels of the Trump administration.

Ice Cube launched BIG3 along with his partner Jeff Kwatinetz in 2017, and the fund led by Al-Rumaihi, which manages about $100 billion on behalf of the government of Qatar, soon agreed to invest millions in the league.

In their lawsuit, Ice Cube and Kwatinetz claim that after that deal was agreed, relations between the founding partners and their investors began to sour — and turn political.

Although Bannon wasn’t involved in BIG3, he once worked with Kwatinetz in another media company, and the two remain friends. Al-Ruhaimi, according to the suit, saw this relationship as an opportunity for his home-country.

Qatar has been struggling under the weight of a trade and diplomatic blockade launched by Saudi Arabia — one that Trump has appeared to support — and has been in search for relief.

Kwatinetz testified that after investing in BIG3, Al-Ruhaimi repeatedly brought up Bannon and the Trump administration’s position on the trade embargo. Then, in January 2018, the two men went on a hike — and Al-Rumaihi said he had a message from Qatar for Bannon, according to Kwatinetz.

“Al-Rumaihi requested I set up a meeting between him, the Qatari government, and Steve Bannon, and to tell Steve Bannon that Qatar would underwrite all his political efforts in return for his support,” Kwatinetz testified.

Kwatinetz claims he responded he was “offended by this request,” but that the Qatari businessman replied that he’d already forged some kind of financial relationship with Trump’s former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn.

“Al-Rumaihi laughed and then stated to me that I shouldn’t be so naive, that so many Washington politicians have taken our money, and stated ‘do you think [Michael] Flynn turned down our money?,” Kwatinetz testified.

Sports Trinity, which represents the Qatari investors in BIG3, has slammed Ice Cube and Kwatinetz’s accusations as untrue.

“Kwatinetz and Ice Cube have subsequently engaged in a public smear campaign, making unfounded and defamatory remarks about investors and departing executives, all to the detriment of the BIG3,” the group said in a statement.

But on Sunday, Avenatti tweeted out a link to a C-SPAN video that appeared to show Al-Rumaihi arriving in Trump Tower with a group including Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer.

Cohen, of course, has been making headlines lately for accepting millions of dollars in payments from corporations like AT&T and pharmaceutical firm Novartis. Those firms have said they paid Cohen because they were seeking insight into the Trump administration.

Cohen, according to documents revealed by Avenatti, also accepted half a million dollars from a U.S. investment firm closely linked to Russian oligarch Viktor Veskelberg.

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