Broidy Tried to Hire Ex-CIA Official to Drum Up Business Inside the Spy Agency

Douglas Wise, who had also served as deputy director of the DIA, says the top Trump fundraiser asked him to 'hand out cards' at CIA headquarters

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UPDATED: A senior former U.S. intelligence official says that former top Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy, indicted Thursday on an illegal foreign lobbying charge, tried to recruit him in 2017 to drum up CIA business from inside the spy agency’s headquarters.

Broidy owns Circinus Worldwide, a global security firm stocked with former intelligence officials that does business with U.S. government agencies. Despite a criminal history that includes confessing in 2009 to bribing New York State officials to get business from its pension fund,  Broidy emerged during Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign as deputy finance chief of the Republican National Committee. He was forced to resign two years later following a report in the Wall Street Journal that he had agreed to pay $1.6 million to a former Playboy model who he allegedly got pregnant. Michael D. Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer, arranged the deal, according to the Journal and other media.

But even during the Trump campaign, he was doing plenty of business on the side, including trying to recruit Douglas H. Wise, a former top CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency official, to cruise the hallways of headquarters and “hand out business cards.”  

Boidy’s ask wasn’t illegal, but federal prohibitions against former U.S. officials lobbying the government are well known and frequently debated in Washington. One provision in the law calls for a two-year "cooling off" period for "very senior" officials, barring them from “representational communications to and attempts to influence certain other high-ranking officials in the entire executive branch of government,” according to an analysis by the Congressional Research Service.

Moveable Feast

Wise, who spent 20 years in the army before moving to the CIA, held several senior spy agency positions, including chief of station in four different countries, before closing out his career as deputy director of Defense Intelligence from 2014 to 2016. He told Broidy that lobbying the CIA would not only be illegal for him, but that agency leaders frown on ex-officials scouting for contracts like a door-to-door salesman in the agency’s executive suites. Over lunch at the Four Seasons luxury hotel in Washington, D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood, he said he tried to steer the conversation with Broidy toward “consulting opportunities” with his company instead.

But Broidy, a close associate and top fundraiser for Trump at the time, would have none of that. 

“He said, ‘No. I want you to be inside CIA handing out Circinus business cards,’” Wise said. “I mean, he was pretty aggressive. So I said, ‘One, that's just not what recently retired CIA senior guys do. We hated guys like that. I hated guys like that. So I'm not going to be that.’”

That meeting ended without agreement. But not long after, Broidy invited Wise to dine again at the Four Seasons to press a deal.

“He kept at me, and said, ‘Look, I'm going to make it worth your while—you know, 20 percent of any business deals we do with CIA, I can put a lot of money in your pocket.’”

Wise, who also served as the CIA’s chief of operational training and ran a major covert action program, remained open to doing business with Broidy—but not the kind he wanted. “I said, Look, I'm just not going to do what you want me to do.”

That was enough for Broidy, who got up to leave.

“He looks at me, sticks his hand out and says, ‘Well, you're not what I'm looking for anyway.’”

Efforts to reach Broidy Thursday were not successful. 

Broidy was accused by the Justice Department on Thursday of violating foreign lobbying laws. The department’s public integrity section said Broidy had accepted $6 million from an unnamed foreign client to persuade administration officials to end a federal investigation into the looting of a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund. The client was not named, but the New York Times and other news outlets, citing “people familiar with the case,” said it was the Malaysian financier Jho Low, who federal authorities say masterminded a scheme to loot the fund.

Broidy also raised money for the presidential campaigns of George W. Bush. In 2016, he emerged as vice chairman for one of Trump’s primary fundraising arms and secured the same position for the president’s inaugural committee.

Crime Spree

Special Counsel Robert Mueller also scrutinized Broidy’s efforts to advance the interests of the United Arab Emirates in the White House, according to news reports. George Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman who was a cooperating witness in Mueller’s probe, gave Broidy $2.5 million to advocate for Emirati interests at the White House, the Associated Press reported. Last June, Nader was sentenced to a decade in prison for possession of child pornography and bringing a minor to the U.S. for sexual purposes.

Circinus Worldwide (formerly Circinus LLC) is stocked with top former intelligence officials, according to the company’s web site. Its founder and CEO is Alan “Blaine” Stone, a former senior intelligence officer with the National Security Agency who also served as a Defense Department special operations official. The board includes Phil Reilly, a 29-year veteran of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service. In 2017 it won a $200 million contract with the United Arab Emirates after Broidy successfully lobbied Trump to meet with the deputy commander of the UAE’s armed forces, according to Bloomberg News.

An earlier version of this story protected the identity of Douglas Wise. He later said he wished to be identified.