Trump's son-in-law, ex-administration official meet in Michigan with Arab Americans

In 2020, Dr. Yahya Basha of West Bloomfield supported Joe Biden for president, donating money to the Biden campaign and keeping a photo of him with Biden in his office.

But earlier this week, Basha, 78, visited an Italian restaurant in Troy along with dozens of other Arab American and Middle Eastern leaders in Michigan to meet with a former Donald Trump administration official, Richard Grenell, and Trump's son-in-law, Michael Boulos, 26, who's of Lebanese descent and married to Tiffany Trump. About 40 of them gathered to discuss the Middle East and other topics as a way for both sides to engage with each other, according to five Arab American advocates who attended the May 21 meeting at Maggiano's Little Italy restaurant.

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"I felt it was positive, the first step in the right direction," said Basha, president of Basha Diagnostics in Royal Oak, who helped host the two-hour meeting. "The door is open."

Michael Boulos, left, a son-in-law of Donald Trump married to Tiffany Trump, was at Maggiano's Little Italy restaurant in Troy, Michigan, on May 21, 2024, along with John Akouri, of Farmington Hills, a Republican and Lebanese American leader, architect and West Bloomfield planning commissioner Ghassan Abdelhour, and Massad Boulos, father of Michael Boulos. They were part of a meeting with Middle Eastern leaders in Michigan with Richard Grenell, a Michigan native who served under Trump as acting director of U.S. National Intelligence and an ambassador to Germany.

Grenell did not comment too much on specifics during the meeting, but he emphasized the idea of achieving peace through strength, said attendees. Grenell, who was once the Ambassador to Germany and later the acting director of National Intelligence under Trump, also touted the Abraham Accords agreement reached under Trump between Israel and some Arab nations. Grenell did not return a message seeking comment about the Troy meeting.

"He did bring up the Abraham Accords ... showing the success of the former president's ability to work on bringing peace to all in the Middle East," said John Akouri, of Farmington Hills, a Lebanese American advocate who was former press secretary for ex-U.S. House. Rep. Joe Knollenberg of 9th House district in Oakland County. Grenell spoke of "the plan for a return of ... the Abraham Accords to continue to bring peace to the Middle East," Akouri said.

Boulos attended the dinner along with his father, Massad Boulos, described in media reports as a billionaire with roots in Lebanon who once lived in Nigeria.

A spokesperson for the Republican National Committee told the Free Press they could not comment on the meeting since it was not an official Trump campaign meeting, but said in an emailed statement: "Many Americans are deeply concerned by President Biden's failures in Middle East policy, and are interested in returning to a world where President Trump's Peace through Strength agenda brings stability rather than chaos and war worldwide."

According to attendees, the meeting included several Syrian Americans, such as Basha, who strongly oppose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad; Lebanese American Christians such as Akouri and Boulos; a Pakistani American leader, Mohammad Qazi, president of Siena Health Care in Southfield; Iraqi American businessman Shakir al Khafaji, who briefly attended; Bishara Bahbah of Arizona, the national chair of Arab Americans for Trump; Mike Hacham of Dearborn, the Michigan coordinator for Arab Americans for Trump; Yemeni Americans from Wayne County; Egyptian-Americans, Chaldeans and some Palestinian Americans. Shias, Sunnis and Christians were represented. Some of those who attended were from outside Michigan.

Richard Grenell, former Ambassador to Germany and former acting director of National Intelligence under President Donald Trump, speaks to Arab American leaders on May 21, 2024, at Maggiano's Little Italy restaurant in Troy, Michigan. On his left is Michael Boulos, a son-in-law of Trump married to Tiffany Trump who's of Lebanese descent. On Grenell's right is Boulos' father, Massad Boulos. Sitting in front is Mike Hacham, of Dearborn, the Michigan coordinator for Arab Americans for Trump

The meeting illustrated how diverse are the 310,000 residents in Michigan of Middle Eastern descent. The various groups have different views and interests, at times at odds with each other on issues like the conflicts in Lebanon, Syria and Gaza. But organizers said they were united in saying they were frustrated with Biden.

Biden and other Democrats have said in response that Trump was responsible for the travel ban on some Muslim nations and that another Trump administration would be harmful to the civil rights of Arab Americans.

"We tried to focus on the issue of Syria," said Basha, a native of Syria. Basha feels that the Biden administration has been too accommodating to groups who support Syria's government. Others at the meeting brought up the issue of Gaza, where thousands have been killed in Israeli strikes.

At one point, Grenell talked about the potential for Gaza in the future, Akouri said.

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Grenell talked about how "Gaza is ... on the waterfront ... there's a lot of opportunity there for the Palestinian people, once Hamas is gone, for them to invest in Gaza," Akouri said, recalling Grenell's remarks. Grenell said the "Gaza Strip could be a resort of sorts with all the lakefront property ... and to create this economic windfall of individuals to come and go, and to live and benefit from."

Over the years, Basha has supported both Republicans and Democrats. Like many other Muslims, he backed George W. Bush for president in 2000, but sometimes has more liberal views on social issues such as abortion. He was opposed to the overturning of Roe v Wade.

Dr. Yahya Basha of West Bloomfield and other Arab American leaders met on May 21, 2024, with former Trump administration official Richard Grenell and Trump's son-in-law at a meeting in Troy. Basha is pictured here at his Basha Diagnostics office in Royal Oak in June 2022.
Dr. Yahya Basha of West Bloomfield and other Arab American leaders met on May 21, 2024, with former Trump administration official Richard Grenell and Trump's son-in-law at a meeting in Troy. Basha is pictured here at his Basha Diagnostics office in Royal Oak in June 2022.

"In the past, most of the Arabs and Muslims in Michigan went for Biden in the last election because of the negative feedback about this travel ban, etc.," Basha said, referring to Trump's banning of visitors from several Muslim-majority nations and some other countries.

Biden repealed that travel ban, but now, many are upset with his policies supporting Israel's attacks in Gaza. At a Dearborn rally on May 19, Arab Americans chanted "Genocide Joe," saying they would not vote for Biden in the fall.

Bahbah, a Palestinian American Christian who attended the meeting, said he was a Democrat until recently and now supports Trump.

"I'm ... furious about the Biden administration, what they're doing in the Middle East," he said. "I believe the meeting was extremely successful."

Contact Niraj Warikoo: or X @nwarikoo

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Trump son-in-law, Richard Grenell met with Michigan Arab Americans