The Slatest

Why Is a Qatari Diplomat Refusing to Confirm Video Footage of Him Attending His Trump Tower Meeting?

Actor / rapper Bow Wow looks on during a BIG3 game on July 16, 2017 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA. Also pictured is Ahmed Al-Rumaihi.
Actor / rapper Bow Wow looks on during a BIG3 game on July 16, 2017 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA. Also pictured is Ahmed Al-Rumaihi.
John Jones/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

On Monday, the company of a one-time Qatari diplomat and investor said it could not confirm and had “no basis to confirm” that the company’s owner, Ahmed Al-Rumaihi, was pictured in a video that appeared to show Al-Rumaihi in the lobby of the Trump Tower in Dec. 2016, accompanied by Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen.

By Tuesday, a spokesperson for the company acknowledged to CNN that Al-Rumaihi had attended a meeting at Trump Tower on that date.

“Mr. Al-Rumaihi was at Trump Tower on December 12, 2016. He was there in his then role as head of Qatar Investments, an internal division of QIA, to accompany the Qatari delegation that was meeting with Trump transition officials on that date,” the spokesperson for Sports Trinity told CNN. “He did not participate in any meetings with Michael Flynn, and his involvement in the meetings on that date was limited.”

Al-Rumaihi is currently at the center of a legal dispute in which a former business partner, Jeff Kwatinetz, alleges that Al-Rumaihi had tried to bribe him for access to Steve Bannon and had suggestively boasted that Michael Flynn had not refused “our money.” (A spokesman for Al-Rumaihi’s sports group has called Kwatinetz’s claims “xenophobic” and “meritless.”) Kwatinetz was the co-founder of a three-on-three basketball league, along with Ice Cube, that included Al-Rumaihi as an investor. Kwatinetz and the league are suing Al-Rumaihi for allegedly reneging on his investment.

The video of Al-Rumaihi at Trump Tower were first released over the weekend by Michael Avenatti, the attorney who is representing the adult film actress Stormy Daniels in her litigation against Michael Cohen.

A spokesman for Sports Trinity told Slate on Monday that the company had no basis to confirm that the footage was of Al-Rumaihi: “We do not confirm and have no basis to confirm the video,” Robert Siegfried, the vice chairman of the Kekst and Co. communications firm, wrote to me on behalf of Sports Trinity.

It’s not clear why, on Tuesday—less than 24 hours later—the group appeared to change its tune.

As Avenatti commented on Twitter, “You cannot reconcile this ‘no basis to confirm the video’ with their admission today to [CNN] that he was there. This smells really bad.” One way to reconcile it appears to merely be to deny that the two things were ever in conflict.

“Nothing has changed,” Siegfried wrote in an email about the apparent contradiction on Tuesday. “The question yesterday was about a video and that was and is the Sport Trinity response. What you have e-mailed today is a description of when Mr. Al-Rumaihi was at Trump Tower and in what capacity.”

Pressed for further clarification, Siegfried stopped responding to emails.

The meetings at Trump Tower came shortly after a multi-billion dollar oil deal between a Russian fossil fuel giant and a Qatari sovereign wealth fund, a deal which was central to accusations in the dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele. Steele’s sources alleged a quid pro quo exchange between Trump officials that included a brokerage of that fossil fuel deal in exchange for sanctions relief for Russia.

The CNN article noted that the Trinity Sports “spokesperson did not elaborate on which Trump transition officials attended those meetings or the substance of the meetings.”

Here is a recap of my email exchange with Siegfried regarding the apparent contradiction:

Slate: These two statements are diametrically opposed, and I wonder what changed between yesterday and today? Basically, I’m wondering why what appears to have been a lie here was told to me yesterday. If this wasn’t a lie, I’d also love to please hear an explanation of why it wasn’t a lie.

Siegfried: Nothing has changed. The question yesterday was about a video and that was and is the Sport Trinity response. What you have e-mailed today is a description of when Mr. Al-Rumaihi was at Trump Tower and in what capacity.

Slate: So: Mr. Al-Rumaihi’s company Sports Trinity was aware that Mr. Al-Rumaihi was at Trump Tower on Dec. 12 2016, but also has “no basis to confirm” that the footage of Mr. Al-Rumaihi at Trump Tower on Dec. 12, 2016 was actually footage of him at Trump Tower on Dec. 12, 2016, the same day that it acknowledges he was at Trump Tower. This is your position, correct?

Siegfried: That is not what I said.

Slate: I’m happy to [sentence] diagram this for you: “Nothing has changed. The question yesterday was about a video and that was and is the Sport Trinity response.”

Sports Trinity’s response about whether or not the video of Mr. Al-Rumaihi at Trump Tower on Dec. 12 2016 was a video of Mr. Al-Rumaihi at Trump Tower on Dec. 12 2016 was: “We do not confirm and have no basis to confirm the video”

So: Sports Trinity has “no basis to confirm” that the footage of Mr. Al-Rumaihi at Trump Tower on Dec. 12, 2016 was actually footage of him at Trump Tower on Dec. 12, 2016.

Today’s statement is this: “Mr. Al-Rumaihi was at Trump Tower on December 12, 2016. He was there in his then role as head of Qatar Investments, an internal division of QIA, to accompany the Qatari delegation that was meeting with Trump transition officials on that date,” said a spokesperson for Sport Trinity, a company that Al-Rumaihi co-owns. “He did not participate in any meetings with Michael Flynn, and his involvement in the meetings on that date was limited.”

So: Mr. Al-Rumaihi’s company Sports Trinity was aware that Mr. Al-Rumaihi was at Trump Tower on Dec. 12 2016.

Combine the two things together: Mr. Al-Rumaihi’s company Sports Trinity was aware that Mr. Al-Rumaihi was at Trump Tower on Dec. 12 2016, but has “no basis to confirm” that the footage of Mr. Al-Rumaihi at Trump Tower on Dec. 12, 2016 was actually footage of him at Trump Tower on Dec. 12, 2016, the same day that it acknowledges he was at Trump Tower.

Again, this seems to be a pretty simple contradiction, and I’d love for you to please explain to me why it’s wrong, if it’s wrong.