UPDATE (5:48 pm EST): This story has been updated with a comment from Sport Trinity.
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’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 hanging 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 a group led by Al-Rumaihi soon agreed to invest millions in the league.
According to Ice Cube’s complaint, “Al-Rumaihi, himself a member of the Qatar royal family, holds himself out as one of the heads of Qatar Investments,” which is a division of the country’s state-controlled investment fund, the Qatar Investment Authority.
A spokesperson for Sport Trinity, the group that invested in BIG3, denied any formal ties to the Qatar Investment Authority. But the spokesperson acknowledged that Al-Rumaihi, who is head of Qatar Investments, is also one of Sport Trinity’s two principals.
In their lawsuit, Ice Cube and Kwatinetz claim that after the deal was inked, 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 of 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 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.
Flynn resigned from his post in Trump administration for lying about his phone calls with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak during the transition.
Sport Trinity, which represents the Qatari investors in BIG3, has slammed Ice Cube and Kwatinetz’s accusations as untrue.
“Simply put, the statements in Mr. Kwatinetz’s declaration are pure Hollywood fiction,” a spokesman for Sport Trinity told VICE News. “Mr. Kwatinetz is engaging in a xenophobic PR smear campaign against Sport Trinity, the largest investor in BIG3 basketball, to cover up his own mismanagement and erratic behavior with respect to the league. Mr. Kwatinetz’s commercial dispute with Sport Trinity is meritless.”
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.