Russia collusion was said to be just phase one of the Trump campaign and administration’s misdeeds. The Middle East was supposed to be phase two. Just as phase one never produced anything involving collusion, phase two never occurred either.
In December 2018, the Daily Beast set off a media and internet firestorm reporting on “Phase Two: The Middle East connection,” which was hyped as the next step in Mueller’s expansive probe.
“Special counsel Robert Mueller’s office is preparing to reveal to the public a different side of his investigation. In court filings that are set to drop in early 2019, prosecutors will begin to unveil Middle Eastern countries’ attempts to influence American politics,” Daily Beast reporter Banco writes, citing “three sources familiar with this side of the probe.”
EXCLUSIVE: Get ready for Mueller's phase two of the "Russia investigation"—the Middle East connection https://t.co/yknggbWOLz
— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) December 13, 2018
“In other words, the ‘Russia investigation’ is set to go global,” she continues.
That story set a narrative in motion: The Russia investigation may or may not pan out, but now Mueller was closing in on “phase two” of his operation. Trump-Russia may have failed, but there was enough proof for Trump-UAE, Trump-Saudi Arabia, and Trump-Israel, and Mueller was on the brink of delivering the goods on Middle East collusion.
Russia probe expands to the Middle East: Robert Mueller reportedly looking at Trump’s ties to Saudis https://t.co/HhUOxeFfoK
— Salon (@Salon) December 13, 2018
This is an intriguing potential missing link between the Russian side of Mueller's investigation and the side focused on the Middle East…. https://t.co/bB5WQVMMp1
— Garrett M. Graff (@vermontgmg) January 30, 2019
Rick Gates is cooperating with Mueller’s probe into whether individuals from the Middle East worked with the Trump campaign to influence the election, according to two individuals with first-hand knowledge of the investigation https://t.co/i76Xn3bPQ2
— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) January 16, 2019
Mueller will tie Trump to ‘unsavory’ Middle East operatives in new filings: reporthttps://t.co/A0HdoRIRxF
— Raw Story (@RawStory) December 13, 2018
— Cheri Jacobus (@CheriJacobus) December 14, 2018
If it is true that Mueller is moving on to Middle East issues and SDNY is shifting to an inquiry of inauguration spending, that could feed Trump’s witch hunt narrative. But really just predictable investigation sprawl.
— Ross Garber (@rossgarber) December 13, 2018
— SpeedReads (@SpeedReads) December 13, 2018
Months passed, and finally the Mueller probe came to a close. There was no Russian collusion or any collusion. As Attorney General William Barr confirmed, citing Mueller’s conclusions, there was no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia or any other nation. Those “court filings” cited by the Daily Beast never emerged, and no evidence that Middle Eastern nations attempted to interfere in the 2016 election ever materialized.
In the end, Mueller’s team issued zero indictments involving Middle East collusion, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t try to hunt for election interference halfway across the world. Throughout 2018, reports surfaced that the special counsel was launching separate probes into the activities of U.S. allies such as the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Israel.
According to Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos, Mueller’s team threatened him with prosecution for allegedly acting as an unregistered foreign agent of Israel, even though no evidence has emerged to sustain such a bombastic accusation. Mueller launched a separate probe scrutinizing Jared Kushner’s contacts with Middle East leaders, but nothing ever came of it. Team Mueller investigated collusion between a UAE lobbyist and the Trump campaign. No collusion was found.
— Tom Fitton (@TomFitton) April 3, 2018
Firm linked to Jared Kushner’s Middle East contact reportedly under investigation by Robert Mueller https://t.co/e0DLKBu7M5
— Jessica Kwong (@JessicaGKwong) April 3, 2018
Under Trump, US policies in the Middle East have changed dramatically … and Robert Mueller is reportedly interested in finding out why. @MarkMazzettiNYT joins @Maddow to explain why:
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) March 22, 2018
At the time, it appeared objectively transparent that Mueller was engaging in a wild goose chase searching for collusion between Trump and Middle Eastern nations.
At Conservative Review, I frequently called into question Robert Mueller’s use of taxpayer funds to chase down “questionable foreign policy leads” that appeared to be sourced to foreign nations and their lobbyists with the intent to damage the reputations of the three aforementioned sovereign nations.
Thanks to two Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) disclosures, I found that before and after the New York Times published its Mueller-related Middle East stories, its reporters had frequent contact and in-person meetings with lobbyists for Qatar. Those disclosures show that the reporters wrote about the topics that were discussed in those meetings. Neither of the two publications disclosed in their reporting that they had regular contact with the lobbyists. In one piece, the New York Times reported that it received its information from an incredibly anonymous source who is “someone critical of the Emirati influence in Washington.”
When NYT & WaPo reporters write about MidEast, they get info from foreign lobbyists & shield them with anonymity. Looked into docs from last year. Before & after publishing this 1, Mark Mazetti of NYT had frequent comms w Qatar foreign agents. Photos: FARAhttps://t.co/3fET46o3UQ pic.twitter.com/SWxbj9bxdf
— Jordan Schachtel (@JordanSchachtel) March 27, 2019
Can confirm that registered Qatari foreign agents held in person meetings last year w/ both Marty Baron (exec editor of WaPo) and Dean Bacquet (exec editor of NYT). If Democracy indeed "Dies in Darkness," shouldn't we have right to know what was discussed in those meetings?
— Jordan Schachtel (@JordanSchachtel) March 30, 2019
Unless Mueller had obtained secret evidence to the contrary, there seemed to be no particular basis for the Middle East collusion hunt, but that didn’t stop Mueller from investigating or mainstream publications from continuing to churn out supposed “evidence” for Middle East collusion. Yet the Daily Beast story insisted that Mueller had found something and that he was close to revealing that information to the Department of Justice.
In the end, Mueller found nothing to corroborate Middle East collusion, just as he found nothing to corroborate Russian collusion. And the court filings, referrals, and indictments promised by the Daily Beast never saw the light of day. However, like a hit-and-run attack, the Mueller probe delivered reputational damage and created false, weaponized media narratives that seemed crafted with the intent of damaging the reputation of our regional allies.
One key question remains: Where did Mueller get all of his bad intelligence from? Who will investigate the investigators? Unfortunately, the legacy media, which worked in tandem with Team Mueller and the Obama Intelligence Community to promulgate the collusion hoax, doesn’t seem up to the task.
The Daily Beast did not respond to a request for comment.