A former Obama administration official on Friday pleaded guilty to federal charges in connection with a behind-the-scenes effort to exert influence with the Trump administration.
Richard G. Olson, the Obama administration’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2015 and 2016, admitted he lied on ethics paperwork and violated revolving door laws, according to The Washington Post.
The violations came in connection with lobbying for Qatar within a year of Olson’s retirement from the federal government.
Sentencing on the two misdemeanor ethics charges – each punishable by a year in prison – has been scheduled for Sept. 13.
Olson acknowledged in his plea that he did not reveal in annual ethics forms that he received $20,000 worth of travel and hotel costs from a Pakistani American businessman.
Olson also admitted he met with a businessman from Bahrain who offered him $300,000 for one year of work after Olson had retired.
Additionally, Olson admitted working in June 2017 to “provide aid and advice to Qatari government officials with the intent to influence” U.S. policy during a blockade of Qatar by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
The Justice Department alleged Olson was paid to influence the Trump administration into lifting the blockade against Qatar.
Olson’s legal team claimed the government focused on Olson while ignoring what it says are similar activities of retired four-star Marine general John G. Allen.
Allen retired in 2013. In 2017 he was named president of the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C., think tank. In 2013, Qatar agreed to donate $14.8 million over four years to Brookings.
Olson attorney J. Michael Hannon has pressed U.S. prosecutors to say why Allen has not been charged, claiming the government’s conduct toward Allen has made things worse for Olson.
ICYMI Ex-U.S. diplomat Richard Olson pleads guilty in Qatar lobbying plot, asks why retired four-star Marine general John G. Allen has not been charged in longrunning federal influence probe of Qatar, UAE and other nations operating in Washington https://t.co/I2ML8981dP
— Spencer Hsu (@hsu_spencer) June 4, 2022
Prosecutor Evan Turgeon of the Justice Department has disputed the connection.
“We dispute the statement that the government has made a prosecutorial decision as to other persons,” he said.
“Nothing related to General Allen has any bearing on the false statement the defendant made on an Office of Government Ethics form in May of 2016, and that was a full year before General Allen’s involvement in activities related to Qatar.”
Beau Phillips, a spokesman for Allen, responded to questions about the issue with a statement.
“John Allen voluntarily cooperated with the government’s investigation into this matter. John Allen’s only 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,” the statement said.
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