The FBI seizes the data of a retired general linked to lobbying in Qatar.
Published on 8.6.2022 by ALAN SUDERMAN and JIM MUSTIAN
The FBI has seized the electronic data of a retired four-star general who authorities say made false statements and concealed ‘incriminating’ documents regarding his role in an illegal overseas lobbying campaign on behalf of of Qatar, a wealthy nation in the Persian Gulf.
New federal court documents obtained on Tuesday outline a potential criminal case against former Marine General John R. Allen, who led US and NATO forces in Afghanistan before he was chosen in 2017 to lead the influential think tank Brookings Institution.
The case is part of a broader investigation that has implicated Richard G. Olson, a former ambassador to the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan who pleaded guilty to federal charges last week, and Imaad Zuberi, a prolific political donor currently serving a 12-year prison sentence for corruption. Several members of Congress were interviewed as part of the investigation.
Court documents detail Allen’s behind-the-scenes efforts to help Qatar influence US policy in 2017, when a diplomatic crisis erupted between the gas-rich Persian Gulf monarchy and its neighbors.
“There is substantial evidence that these FARA violations were deliberate,” FBI agent Babak Adib wrote in a search warrant request, referring to the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
Mr. Allen also misrepresented his role in the lobbying campaign to US officials, Mr. Adib wrote, and did not reveal “that he was simultaneously pursuing multimillion-dollar trade deals with the government.” of Qatar”.
The FBI says Mr Allen gave a ‘false story’ about his work for Qatar during a 2020 law enforcement interview and failed to produce the relevant emails in response to an earlier grand jury subpoena.
The 77-page search warrant request appears to have been filed in error and was removed from the docket on Tuesday after The Associated Press contacted federal authorities about its contents.
Allen declined to comment on the new filings. He has previously denied ever working as an agent for Qatar and said his efforts on Qatar in 2017 were motivated by a desire to prevent a war from breaking out in the Gulf that would put US troops at risk.
Beau Phillips, a spokesperson for Allen, told the AP last week that Allen “has voluntarily cooperated with the government’s investigation into this matter.” »
According to the affidavit, Mr. Allen, who was a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution before becoming president, used his official email account at the think tank for some of his Qatar-related communications.
Brookings did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Qatar has long been a major backer of Brookings, although the institution says it recently stopped receiving Qatari funding.
Olson was working with Zuberi on another case involving Qatar in mid-2017, when Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other Gulf countries announced a blockade of Qatar over its alleged links to terrorist groups. and other issues.
Soon after the blockade was announced, then-President Donald Trump appeared to side with Qatar.
Court documents indicate that Allen played a significant role in shaping the United States’ response. Specifically, authorities say he pressured then-national security adviser HR McMaster to get the Trump administration to adopt a more pro-Qatar tone.
In an email to McMaster, Mr Allen said the Qataris wanted the White House or State Department to issue a statement calling on all parties to the Gulf diplomatic crisis to “act with restraint”.
According to federal law enforcement authorities, then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson did just that two days later when he issued a statement calling on other Gulf countries to ” ease the blockade against Qatar” and asking “that there be no further escalation by the parties in the region”.
The Qatari embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
As part of the lobbying campaign, according to federal law enforcement authorities, Olson and Allen traveled to Qatar to meet with the country’s ruling emir and other senior officials.
At that meeting, Allen gave advice on how to influence US policy and said the Qataris should “use the full spectrum” of info ops, including “black and white” ops, according to the report. affidavit. Black ops are usually covert and sometimes illegal. Qatar has been accused of orchestrating hacking and leaking operations against critics and rivals during the diplomatic crisis, including one targeting a UAE ambassador. Qatar has denied any wrongdoing.
Before traveling to Doha, Mr. Allen wanted to “discuss” with Mr. Olson and Mr. Zuberi his compensation, according to the affidavit. In an email, Allen suggested he receive $20,000 in “speaker fees” for the weekend trip – even if he didn’t give a speech – and later “work out a more complete arrangement for a longer-term relationship,” according to the affidavit.
Zuberi paid for Allen’s first-class airfare to Qatar, according to the affidavit, but there is no indication that the speaker’s fee was paid. Allen’s spokesperson previously said the general never received an honorarium. The reason is unclear. Some of Zuberi’s former associates accused him of not honoring his financial commitments.
According to the FBI, Allen also had other financial incentives to help the Qataris and to maintain close ties with its top leaders.
“At the same time as he lobbied US government officials on behalf of Qatar, Allen struck at least one multi-million dollar trade deal with the Qatari government on behalf of a company of which he was a board member. ‘administration,’ the affidavit reads.
Upon returning from their trip to Qatar, Allen and Olson lobbied members of Congress, including those who supported a House of Representatives resolution linking Qatar to terrorist financing, according to the FBI.
Among them, Congressman Ted Lieu, a California Democrat, told law enforcement he didn’t remember exactly what Allen said, but felt he was there “to support Qatari officials and their position”.