In the blink of a Michael Avenatti tweet, Ahmed al-Rumaihi has suddenly found himself internet-famous. It began on Sunday evening, when the attorney for adult film star Stormy Daniels posted a screenshot of video footage from Trump Tower’s lobby, recorded on December 12, 2016.
Viral speculation followed, with online detectives identifying al-Rumaihi, the former head of a $100 billion wing of the Qatari sovereign wealth fund, in the image and linking him to a Russia-Qatar deal to sell a portion of the oil company Rosneft, which had been referenced in the Steele dossier, a set of raw intelligence reports compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele.
From there, Slate took over, headlining a piece late Monday night: “Michael Cohen’s Meetings With Michael Flynn and a Qatari Diplomat Might Be the Key to Unlocking the Steele Dossier.”
Over the past two months, al-Rumaihi has shared details of his meetings that week in off-the-record interviews with The Intercept. al-Rumaihi said he was reluctant to speak out publicly, so as not to create diplomatic problems for his country, which has been the subject of a blockade led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates since June. Qatar has been relying on the United States to mediate the dispute, and al-Rumaihi said he did not want to get in the way of that effort.
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But al-Rumaihi, who was educated in the U.S. and served as the No. 2 in the Qatar embassy in Washington from 2008 until 2013, has changed his mind. He has complicated reasons for wanting to speak out now. After leaving Qatari government service in March 2017, he funded his own enterprise, called Sport Trinity. Last month, he was sued as part of a commercial dispute involving a former business partner of Steve Bannon and the rapper and actor Ice Cube. In a recent filing, the former Bannon partner, Jeff Kwatinetz, accuses al-Rumaihi of having offered to “bribe” Bannon, and further alleges in a complaint, filed in California, that al-Rumaihi told him, “Do you think [Michael] Flynn turned down our money?”
Al-Rumaihi said the claims in the lawsuit are fabricated, and that Kwatinetz would routinely raise the possibility of asking Bannon to assist Qatar, an offer al-Rumaihi said he knew was not serious given Bannon’s public criticism of the Gulf country. A spokesperson for Kwatinetz’s company, BIG3, denied the