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FBI seizes data of retired US general who leads Democrat-linked think tank over Qatar lobbying

U.S. Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen. Oct. 12, 2012. (Department of Defense photo/Released)
June 08, 2022

The FBI has requested electronic data it believes shows illegal lobbying for Qatar by a former U.S. Marine general who now leads a major foreign policy think tank.

A warrant application filed in April in the federal court for California’s central district but first discovered this week shows the Department of Justice and the FBI requested access to retired four-star Marine Gen. John R. Allen’s iCloud account. Allen is the current president of the Brookings Institute; a center-left public policy and foreign policy think tank.

The warrant application lays out an allegation that Allen worked with former U.S. Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates Richard Olson and Pakistani-American businessman Imaad Zuberi to lobby on Qatar’s behalf. Allen, Olson and Zuberi allegedly tried throughout the spring and summer of 2017 to help make U.S. policy towards Qatar more favorable after Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic relations with the country.

Then-President Donald Trump claimed credit for Qatar’s diplomatic isolation, but Allen allegedly tried to change the Trump administration policy towards Qatar by lobbying then-National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and other members of the White House National Security Council (NSC). The warrant application stated Allen used a Brookings Institute email account during his communications. Allen became the president of the Brookings Institute months later, in November 2017.

The Brookings Institute is a prominent foreign policy think tank. According to Open Secrets, political donations from individuals working at the Brookings Institute have heavily favored Democrats. Since 2004, more than 90 percent of all donations from the think tank’s members have gone to Democrat political candidates and causes. According to the Associated Press, Qatar has historically been one of the Brookings Institute’s biggest financial backers, though the think tank recently stopped taking Qatari funding.

The warrant application states the DOJ and FBI issued a subpoena against Allen, to provide his email messages pertaining to the alleged lobbying effort on Qatar’s behalf. The prosecutors said Allen failed to produce all the requested documents, but said they were provided to the government by other sources. The prosecutors said the emails missing from Allen’s subpoena response “included incriminating documents relevant to the government’s investigation.” Those alleged incriminating details included a request from Allen to Zuberi for a “speakers fee” and other compensation for the lobbying effort.

According to the warrant application “at the same time he was lobbying U.S. 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.”

It is unclear what has happened since the April warrant application was filed. Other records about the case remain sealed and the warrant application may have been released by accident.

A spokesman for General Allen, Beau Phillips, told the New York Times that Allen “voluntarily cooperated with the government’s investigation into this matter.”

Allen has maintained that his efforts relating to Qatar were focused on avoiding a war that could put U.S. troops stationed in the country at potential risk.

“John Allen’s efforts with regard to Qatar in 2017 were to protect the interests of the United States and the military personnel stationed in Qatar. John Allen received no fee for his efforts,” Phillips said.

Zuberi is already currently serving a 12-year prison sentence for violating foreign lobbying regulations in an unrelated 2014 case, as well as campaign finance and tax laws.