At the same time Robert Mueller investigated Russia’s covert operation to sabotage the US election, the FBI and the special counsel’s officer examined whether a former Trump aide was secretly working for the Egyptian government, reports the New York Times.
According to the report, former advisor Walid Phares may have been working to influence the incoming administration in the months leading up to Donald Trump becoming president.
The investigation began in May 2017. At the time, the FBI was concerned that several foreign governments were using advisors to advance their agendas, including four other Trump campaign advisors over links to Russia.
Phares, who regularly appeared on Fox News to talk about the dangers of Islamic terrorism and Shariah law, knew people within the upper echelons of the Egyptian regime, in particular a deputy minister for education.
In 2016, Phares told the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump in an email that he had arranged a meeting between Trump and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi that September. He wrote: “Great that the meeting will take place tomorrow. This is a major victory in foreign policy. It will generate more votes.”
Whereas Barack Obama had criticised the Egyptian government, Trump has praised the strongman, once calling Al-Sisi his “favourite dictator”, despite the widespread human rights abuses that take place in the country.
The Times report comes as the US has announced it is contributing $3.2 million to Egypt’s Red Crescent to support the north African country’s fight against COVID-19.
In a tweet announcing the donation, USAID Egypt said the cash would complement the $1 billion it had already invested in Egypt’s health since 1978.
Twitter user The Big Pharaoh pointed out that the US gives Egypt $1.3 billion in military aid annually for “mostly conventional weapons that sit idly in warehouses”.
“Just imagine if a fraction of this money went on health care,” he wrote.
Throughout the covid crisis there has been renewed scrutiny on the US-Egypt relationship particularly after a military aircraft of medical supplies sent from Egypt arrived in the US’ Dulles International Airport in April.
US lawmakers are looking to cut hundreds of millions of dollars to military aid to Egypt after the first US citizen Mustafa Kassem died in an Egyptian jail in January after being denied urgent medical care. Experts have said this donation could have been a softener.
Many Egyptians asked why their country is giving away vital medical supplies when there are severe shortages at home. Egypt’s top medical union have warned the healthcare system is close to collapse.
Several hospitals across the country have closed their doors after widespread outbreaks of the virus among the staff. Several medics have blamed the lack of PPE and the fact that the Health Ministry has not allocated enough isolation space for medics.
Earlier this week there was a mass resignation of doctors from Mounira Medical Hospital after their colleague Walid Yahya died from covid after not being given access to a test or a bed in ICU.