02:03 - Source: CNN
'Man of mystery' cooperates with Mueller in Russia probe (2018)
Washington CNN —  

George Nader, who was a key witness in the Mueller investigation, pleaded not guilty Friday to campaign finance charges linked to the 2016 election.

He was one of eight people who were recently indicted for allegedly funneling foreign contributions to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and other political groups. One of the other defendants in the case hosted a fundraiser for Clinton, and prosecutors said Nader coordinated more than $3.5 million in illegal donations to gain access to the candidate.

Wearing a green and khaki jail uniform, Nader attended back-to-back hearings at the federal courthouse in Washington, DC. He spoke quietly while answering a few procedural questions from two separate judges, and his hair appeared grayer than in previous appearances.

There’s no indication the Clinton campaign was aware of the foreign donor scheme, which was apparently coordinated with at least one Middle East government, according to court filings.

Nader is already in jail, awaiting trial in a separate criminal case in Virginia. He was arrested in June and charged with transporting child pornography. He was previously convicted of sex crimes against minors in the Czech Republic and pleaded guilty to a child porn charge in 1991.

Despite this checkered past, Nader accrued substantial political influence in the US and Middle East. He informally advised the Trump White House on diplomatic issues in early 2017, and even attended high-level meetings with members of President Donald Trump’s inner circle.

His connections to Trump turned him into an important witness in the Russia investigation. He was interviewed extensively by special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, and provided information about efforts after Trump’s victory in November 2016 to connect another informal Trump adviser with a senior Russian official. The Mueller report mentions Nader in nearly four dozen footnotes.

In the wake of the Mueller investigation, which uncovered significant foreign meddling in US elections, the Justice Department is now cracking down on foreign influence in US politics. The case against Nader is one of several prominent ongoing cases involving foreign donors.