March 27, 2018 / 1:10 AM / 24 days ago

Trump fundraiser sues Qatar over hacked emails

(Reuters) - Elliott Broidy, a top Republican fundraiser, sued Qatar on Monday, accusing the Gulf state of pilfering and leaking emails in retribution for his attempts to influence the Trump administration in favour of regional rivals of Qatar.

In the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, Broidy accused Qatar and its agents of hacking into his and his wife’s email accounts and providing the stolen documents, via U.S.-based lobbyists, to media outlets in order to plant damaging articles about him.

The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, says some of the leaked materials were doctored.

“We believe the evidence is clear that a nation state is waging a sophisticated disinformation campaign against me in order to silence me,” Broidy said in a statement.

The lawsuit adds a new dimension to a diplomatic crisis in the Gulf set off when the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt imposed sanctions on Qatar last June.

The boycott was based on allegations that Qatar supports Islamic extremists and regional foe Iran. Qatar denies the charges.

Jassim Al-Thani, a spokesman at Qatar’s embassy in Washington, described the lawsuit as an attempt by Broidy to divert attention from media scrutiny on his activities.

“It is Mr. Broidy, not Qatar, who orchestrated nefarious activities designed to influence Congress and American foreign policy,” Al-Thani said in a statement.

Broidy, a vocal critic of Qatar, met with Trump in September and tried to set up an informal meeting between the president and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan of the UAE, according to a person familiar with the matter.

While the meeting did not materialise, the episode highlighted the influential role Broidy, the deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee, has developed in the administration.

Broidy, whose company is based in California, finalised more than $200 million worth of defence contracts with the UAE government and is in talks on similar deals with Saudi Arabia, the lawsuit says.

Broidy cited several articles that he believes were prompted by the leaking of his emails and other documents.

Broidy claims Al Jazeera published an article on March 8 based on falsified documents accusing him of entering into a lobbying contract in 2014 with a Russian bank under U.S. sanctions.

Al Jazeera did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Broidy accused Nicolas Muzin, a Washington-based lobbyist whose firm has a $300,000 per month contract with Qatar, of helping to wage a campaign to discredit Broidy’s efforts to “educate the American people about Qatar.” Muzin was also named as a defendant in the suit.

“Mr Broidy’s lawsuit is an obvious attempt to draw attention away from his controversial work, and is as flimsy as the promises he reportedly made to his clients,” Muzin said in a statement, saying he was proud of the work he did for Qatar.

Reporting by Nathan Layne and Karen Freifeld in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler

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