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Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy believes an alleged hack of his computer files by agents for the nation of Qatar led to the exposure of his affair with and payoff to a Playboy Playmate, his spokesman told CNBC on Thursday.
Broidy believes material related to his relationship with the woman and the subsequent payoff to her was stolen and then later leaked to The Wall Street Journal, his spokesman, Harvey Englander, said.
The married Broidy, a venture capitalist, also "absolutely" believes the subsequent leak about the affair and the payoff to Shera Bechard was intended to discredit his stance against Qatar, Englander said.
The Journal's story ran on April 13. The article detailed how President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen in late 2017 had negotiated a deal to pay the Playmate $1.6 million after she claimed Broidy impregnated her and that she wanted to terminate the pregnancy.
That story ran less than three weeks after Broidy first filed a federal lawsuit accusing Qatar of being behind the hack of his computer files.
The original lawsuit claimed that materials stolen from Broidy were leaked to media outlets to fuel negative articles about him. Those earlier articles did not mention any affair.
Broidy's affair came to light days after FBI agents in New York raided Cohen's office, apartment and a hotel room where he had been staying, as part of an ongoing criminal investigation into the attorney.
In late 2016, Cohen paid $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels in exchange for her silence about an alleged affair she had with Trump.
After this story was published Thursday, Englander denied making the statements attributed to him.
Englander had called CNBC on Wednesday after a reporter reached out to Broidy's lawyers to ask whether Broidy believed that the materials he claims were hacked led to the exposure last month of his affair.
In a voicemail, Englander said the lawyers had "passed along your message to me, and the answer is 'yes.' "
The reporter then spoke to Englander on the phone on Thursday.
After CNBC published this story, Englander reached out again, to deny his reported comments.
"I specifically deny having told you, on or off the record, that Mr. Broidy believes that the computer hack by Qatar led to the exposure of his affair with Ms. Bechard," Englander wrote in an email to CNBC on Friday morning.
"I specifically said …that I could not speak to the mindset or beliefs of other people and that I had not spoken with Mr. Broidy about that specific question," Englander wrote in the email.
Broidy resigned as deputy finance chairman at the Republican National Committee on the day the Journal broke the news of his affair with Bechard. Cohen and Broidy had been appointed to similar roles on the RNC finance team in April 2017.
Englander's comments to CNBC came on the same day that Broidy and his company, Broidy Capital Management, filed an amended lawsuit against Qatar and the people and companies he accuses of conspiring to conduct an "illegal intrusion" into Broidy's email server last year.
The comments also came three days after the Associated Press ran a story detailing efforts by Broidy and his business partner, George Nader, to push for anti-Qatar policies by the American government.
The AP article said that in exchange for their efforts, Broidy and Nader "expected huge consulting contracts" from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, two nations that are hostile to Qatar. The article is based in part on "hundreds of pages of leaked emails between the two men."
The AP noted that neither Broidy nor Nader had registered with the U.S. government as lobbyists working for foreign governments. Broidy has said he was not required to do so because his actions opposing Qatar were on his own accord.
Broidy's amended lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles federal court, claims that Qatar targeted Broidy because of his "outspoken criticism" against the Arab state due to its "support for terrorism."
The amended suit adds as defendants Mohammed bin Hamad Khalifa al Thani, who is the brother of the emir of Qatar, as well as Ahmed al Ruhmaihi, who was responsible for $100 billion belonging to the Qatar Investment Authority.
New York-based corporate intelligence firm Global Risk Advisors, and its principals, Kevin Chalker and David Mark Powell, are also now listed as defendants in Broidy's suit.
The suit says that sometime before Dec. 27, 2017, Qatar or one of its agents retained Global Risk Advisors "to coordinate an offensive cyber and information operation" against Broidy and his company, "including by infiltrating" Broidy's computer networks in Los Angeles and by gaining access to Google email accounts of people connected to Broidy, his wife among them.
"We believe the evidence is clear that a nation-state is waging a sophisticated cyber information campaign against me in order to silence me," Broidy said in a prepared statement. "We believe it is also clear that I have been targeted because of my strong political views against Qatar's state-sponsored terrorism and double-dealing, and the fact that I was not shy about expressing my views."
Broidy's lawyer, Lee Wolosky, said: "It is a crime for any person to hack into the emails of a U.S. citizen. It is all but an act of war when such an attack is orchestrated by a foreign government."
"In this lawsuit we are asking that Qatar be held accountable for its support of terrorism in any form, offline or online," said Wolosky, a partner at the firm Boies Schiller Flexner.
Qatar's media attache in Washington, Jassim Al Thani, blasted Broidy's lawsuit, calling his claims fabricated.
"Mr. Broidy's latest false allegation is yet another desperate attempt to divert attention from his own illegal activities," the attache said in an emailed statement to CNBC. "He attempts to portray Qatar as the aggressor, when he knows full well Qatar does not operate in this manner. The facts show it was Mr. Broidy who conspired in the shadows against Qatar — not the other way around."
In a prepared statement, Global Risk Advisors said: "We are aware of the baseless allegations made by Mr. Broidy. They are categorically false, unjustified and we deny them. We will defend ourselves vigorously and will have no further comment at this time."
This article has been undated to include additional comments from Elliott Broidy's spokesman.