Facing FBI Investigation, Head of Think Tank Resigns

Agency filing says there's evidence retired general illegally lobbied for Qatar
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 8, 2022 12:57 PM CDT
Updated Jun 12, 2022 3:35 PM CDT
FBI Seizes Data of Retired 4-Star General
Retired Gen. John Allen, who was the top US commander in Afghanistan, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 20, 2012.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Update: Under federal investigation on suspicion of illegally lobbying, the president of the Brookings Institution resigned Sunday. Retired Gen. John Allen did not offer a direct explanation in a letter to the think tank, the AP reports. "I know it is best for all concerned in this moment," the letter said. A spokesman has denied any wrongdoing on the part of Allen, who has not been charged with any crimes. Our story from Tuesday follows:

The FBI has seized the electronic data of a retired four-star general who allegedly made false statements and withheld "incriminating" documents about his role in an illegal lobbying campaign on behalf of Qatar. Federal court filings obtained Tuesday outlined a potential criminal case against former Marine Gen. John R. Allen, who led US and NATO forces in Afghanistan before being tapped in 2017 to lead the Brookings Institution. It's part of an expanding investigation that has ensnared Richard Olson, a former ambassador to the UAE who pleaded guilty to federal charges last week, and Imaad Zuberi, a prolific political donor serving a 12-year prison sentence for corruption. Several members of Congress have been interviewed as part of the investigation, per the AP.

Court filings detail Allen's efforts to help Qatar influence US policy in 2017, when Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and other Gulf countries imposed a blockade on the gas-rich monarchy over ties to terror and other issues. In an application for a search warrant, the FBI described "substantial" evidence that Allen willfully violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act. He also allegedly gave a "false version of events" during a 2020 interview with law enforcement and failed to produce emails in response to a grand-jury subpoena. The search warrant application appears to have been filed in error and was removed from the docket Tuesday after the AP inquired about its contents.

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Court papers say Allen played an important role in shifting the US response to the crisis, lobbying the Trump administration to urge Gulf countries to ease the blockade. Meeting with top Qatari officials, Allen also advised the use of potentially illegal "black operations" to influence US policy. In addition to seeking fees from Olson and Zuberi for his work, Allen allegedly had other undisclosed financial incentives, per the affidavit. "At the same time he was lobbying US government officials on behalf of Qatar, Allen pursued at least one multimillion-dollar business deal with the Qatari government on behalf of a company on whose board of directors he served," the affidavit says. Allen has previously denied ever working as a Qatari agent.

(More Gen. John Allen stories.)

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