Saturday, December 2, 2017, was a big day for David Dennison. Dennison — as Donald Trump was called in his hush-money agreement with Stormy Daniels — was taking a break from the golfing trips that had dominated his weekends for that entire fall. Today there was no time for golf: He was traveling from the White House to New York City, where he would spend all day on Wall Street, fundraising for his 2020 reelection campaign, and for the Republican National Committee.
Trump would not get back to the White House until 4:45 p.m., but he still found time in his busy schedule that day for one more meeting. That get-together was with a wealthy Republican fundraiser and lobbyist, Elliott Broidy. Broidy, who had been convicted in 2009 of bribing public officials, had spent all of 2017 investing enormous amounts of time and money to acquire what his business partner George Nader termed “this priceless asset” — a private meeting with the president of the United States.
In fact this asset could be given a quite precise price. A remarkable investigative report from the Associated Press describes what appeared to be a particularly brazen quid pro quo:
After a year spent carefully cultivating two princes from the Arabian Peninsula, Elliott Broidy, a top fundraiser for President Donald Trump, thought he was finally close to nailing more than $1 billion in business.
He had ingratiated himself with crown princes from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who were seeking to alter U.S. foreign policy and punish Qatar, an archrival in the Gulf that he dubbed “the snake.”
To do that, the California businessman had helped spearhead a secret campaign to influence the White House and Congress, flooding Washington with political donations. Broidy and his business partner, Lebanese-American George Nader, pitched themselves to the crown princes as a backchannel to the White House, passing the princes’ praise — and messaging — straight to the president’s ears.
Now, in December 2017, Broidy was ready to be rewarded for all his hard work. It was time to cash in.
In return for pushing anti-Qatar policies at the highest levels of America’s government, Broidy and Nader expected huge consulting contracts from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, according to an Associated Press investigation based on interviews with more than two dozen people and hundreds of pages of leaked emails between the two men.
Those consulting contracts, according to Broidy’s own correspondence, were what the December 2 meeting was about. And, a few days later, Broidy got his payoff: The U.A.E. awarded his company a deal worth up to $600 million over the next five years.
Here is some additional context that now seems especially noteworthy: Just two days before that meeting, on November 30, Broidy wired $200,000 from his Bank of America account to Real Estate Attorneys’ Group, a California firm. On December 5, REAG transferred that money to attorney Keith Davidson. Davidson was at the time supposedly representing the legal interests of Shera Bechard, a Playboy model with whom Broidy now claims to have had an affair. (Bechard fired Davidson shortly afterward, when she became convinced that Davidson was actually working in concert with Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s personal attorney, to protect Cohen’s client’s interests rather than hers.) That $200,000 was supposed to be the first of eight quarterly payments that “David Dennison” agreed to make to Bechard, in order to buy her silence about an affair and a subsequent abortion. All this was laid out in an NDA recovered from Michael Cohen’s office when it was raided last month.
Four days after after the raid on Cohen’s office, on April 13, The Wall Street Journal published a story claiming that this David Dennison, in the NDA signed by Shera Bechard, was none other than Elliott Broidy — despite its being precisely the same pseudonym Trump had used in the Stormy Daniels NDA.
The paper’s basis for its scoop was this: Whoever leaked the existence of the Bechard NDA to the Journal also asserted that the agreement was between Bechard and Broidy. The Journal’s reporters confronted Broidy, and Broidy immediately confessed to having had a long-running affair with Bechard, and subsequently agreeing to pay her $1.6 million to buy her silence about it. The first payment of the agreement was supposed to be due on December 1, 2017. That is the story Broidy told the Journal, and that story has, remarkably enough, become accepted as simple fact. Indeed, the AP concludes its bombshell exposé of Broidy’s machinations by observing that Broidy had gotten Shera Bechard pregnant, and had “agreed to pay her $1.6 million to help her out, as long as she never spoke about it.”
But as I argued at length and in detail in this space two weeks ago, Broidy’s account raises a lot of questions — and I believe a more plausible explanation of all the facts at hand is that he agreed to pay Bechard seven figures as a favor to Donald Trump, who actually impregnated Bechard, and then needed to hush her up about their affair and her subsequent abortion.
Trump, I pointed out, is exactly the kind of man who has affairs with women like Shera Bechard, while Broidy has a history of bribing public officials to further his business interests — indeed, he had even made payments to the mistress of a politician he was bribing. And it was clear Broidy had spent much of 2017 touting his connections to Trump to various foreign officials.
The AP exposé only strengthens the evidence for my hypothesis: The first payment from Broidy came two days before the meeting that apparently helped him ink a nine-figure deal with a foreign country — a deal based in no small part on his access to, and influence on, Trump. If it’s difficult to imagine Broidy being willing to take the fall for Trump’s affair with Bechard and then paying her a seven-figure sum, it’s much simpler to imagine it simply as a perfectly timed and fantastically profitable bribe.
It’s also important to keep in mind that the only hard evidence for Broidy’s claim that his payoff to Bechard wasn’t actually a straight-up bribe of the president of the United States continues to be Broidy’s own assertions. (My repeated attempts to get Bechard’s current attorney, Peter Stris, to comment on this matter have been unsuccessful.) Journalists — including those AP reporters who pulled together such a remarkable and important story — might want to be cautious about taking Broidy’s word on the matter at face value.