Brookings think tank sidelines retired general amid federal probe

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The Brookings Institution, a reputable DC research firm, placed its chairman, retired Marine General John R. Allen, on administrative leave on Wednesday as part of a federal investigation examining its activities on behalf of the Qatari government. years ago.

Allen, once a top military commander who led all US combat forces in Afghanistan, is suspected of secretly pressuring the Trump administration to tone down its criticism of the oil-rich nation during a tense period in 2017, when Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf countries imposed harsh sanctions. economic measures against the Qatari government over allegations of support for Islamic extremists, according to court records. Federal prosecutors also alleged that Allen sought to obstruct the investigation by attempting to withhold evidence and lying to authorities, these documents show.

Allen met with senior Qatari leaders in 2017, before his appointment as president of the Brookings Institution. He was a part-time principal investigator there at the time and, according to law enforcement, used his Brookings email to communicate with Trump administration officials, including the House national security adviser. Blanche at the time, Army Lt. Gen. HR McMaster. .

In advising staff of their decision to put Allen on administrative leave, two institute board members, Glenn Hutchins and Suzanne Nora Johnson, wrote in an email: “We want to assure you that Brookings is not doing the object of this investigation. Brookings has strict policies in place to prohibit donors from directing research activities.

The Qatari government was once a major backer of Brookings, according to The Associated Press, which this week revealed the contents of a 77-page search warrant request that details the FBI’s allegations. The group no longer receives funding from the Qatari government, Brookings said, although the country agreed in 2013 to donate nearly $15 million to the institute.

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Beau Phillips, a spokesperson for Allen, released a statement late Wednesday calling the law enforcement account detailed in the search warrant application “factually inaccurate, incomplete and misleading.”

“General Allen did nothing improper or illegal, never acted as an agent of Qatar or any foreign government or principal, and never obstructed justice,” the statement said. communicated. “Through decades of public service in combat and diplomacy, General Allen has earned an unrivaled reputation for honor and integrity. We look forward to correcting the lies about General Allen that have been improperly made public in this affair.

The search warrant request, which is dated April 15 and seeks court approval to search the retired general’s digital communications, appears to have been made public in error, the AP reported. It says Richard G. Olson, a former ambassador to the United Arab Emirates who pleaded guilty last week in the covert lobbying campaign, and political donor Imaad Zuberi implicated the retired general in a scheme to restore Qatar’s image during the diplomatic crisis.

The FBI alleged that, during an interview with authorities in 2020, Allen gave a “false version of events” saying he was helping establish a military advisory committee. Law enforcement officials also allege that Allen failed to turn over the relevant emails, the search warrant request states.

US law requires those who lobby on behalf of other governments to register with the Department of Justice.

The search warrant request includes the text of an email Allen sent to McMaster imploring the administration to issue a statement calling on the Gulf countries to end their blockade of vital transit routes and “act with restraint.” “.

“What they are asking for is a follow-up signal to the WH or DOS region of a simple statement from the United States,” Allen wrote of the Qataris, referring to the White House or the Dept. of state, according to the documents. Then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson quickly issued a statement calling for “calm and thoughtful dialogue.”

It was a reversal of statements made by President Donald Trump days earlier, which included charges of Qatar-funded terrorism.

Zuberi, sentenced last year to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to tax evasion, campaign finance violations and charges he did not register as a foreign agent, agreed to pay to Allen a speaker’s fee of $20,000 for a visit to Qatar and to cover first-class travel to and from Doha, according to court documents, but investigators say they found no evidence that Allen received the speaker’s honorarium.

Spencer S. Hsu contributed to this report.

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