Justice Department Charges Former Trump Adviser with Hiding Foreign Lobbying

Justice Department Charges Former Trump Adviser with Hiding Foreign Lobbying

Newly unsealed Justice Department records expose a covert lobbying campaign orchestrated by politically connected consultants during the Trump administration. The consultants provided misleading information and worked on behalf of a wealthy Gulf country, believed to be Qatar.

Barry P. Bennett, a former adviser to Donald Trump’s campaign, allegedly led the lobbying efforts, receiving $2.1 million from Qatar for his company’s services. Federal prosecutors filed criminal charges against Bennett, who agreed to a deferred prosecution agreement and a $100,000 fine.

Another consultant, Douglas Watts, also reached a similar agreement for failing to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. This law requires disclosure of lobbying work for foreign entities in the U.S.

Bennett’s company, Avenue Strategies, was hired by the Qatari embassy for lobbying but also operated a separate entity, Yemen Crisis Watch, to undermine Qatar’s rival. The covert campaign involved lobbying, social media, opinion articles, and a TV documentary.

Prominent figures like televangelist Robert Schuller and former Gov. Jeff Colyer were reportedly involved in Yemen Crisis Watch’s activities but have not been charged. The case sheds light on Qatar’s influence campaign during the Trump administration.
The Justice Department has recently charged a former adviser to President Donald Trump with hiding his efforts to lobby on behalf of a foreign government. The charges against the former adviser, who has not been named in the indictment, are part of a broader crackdown on individuals who fail to disclose their lobbying activities under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

According to the indictment, the former adviser worked on behalf of a foreign government to influence U.S. policy and public opinion, but failed to register as a foreign agent as required by law. The Justice Department alleges that the former adviser engaged in a covert lobbying campaign that included meetings with U.S. government officials, media appearances, and other activities aimed at advancing the interests of the foreign government.

The charges against the former adviser are a stark reminder of the importance of transparency and accountability in the lobbying industry. FARA was enacted in 1938 to prevent foreign governments from covertly influencing U.S. policy and public opinion, and requires individuals who lobby on behalf of foreign governments to register with the Justice Department and disclose their activities.

The Justice Department’s enforcement of FARA has ramped up in recent years, with several high-profile cases resulting in guilty pleas and convictions. The charges against the former Trump adviser serve as a warning to others who may be engaging in similar activities without proper disclosure.

In a statement announcing the charges, Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers emphasized the importance of compliance with FARA, stating that “the American people have a right to know if foreign governments are trying to influence our political process.” Demers also noted that the Justice Department will continue to aggressively enforce FARA to ensure that individuals who lobby on behalf of foreign governments are held accountable for their actions.

The charges against the former Trump adviser are a significant development in the ongoing investigation into foreign influence in U.S. politics. As the Justice Department continues to crack down on individuals who fail to disclose their lobbying activities, it is clear that transparency and accountability will remain top priorities in the lobbying industry.

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