National Security

Brookings Institute Puts Retired Four Star General On Leave As Investigators Look Into Accusations He Lobbied For Foreign State

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Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
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Retired four-star Gen. John Allen is currently under federal investigation for allegedly violating federal laws requiring the registration of foreign lobbyists, documents obtained by several news organizations reveal.

FBI agents applied in April to seize electronic data belonging to Allen, currently the head of the Brookings Institute and former Commander of U.S. Central Command, as part of an investigation into a potential scheme to lobby for Qatar. Former U.S. ambassador Richard Olson pleaded guilty as part of the probe Friday, and named Allen during his court proceedings. Qatar donated $14.8 million to Brookings over four years starting in 2014 and academics have raised questions about the think tank’s Middle East work since then.

The Brookings Institute announced Wednesday that it is placing Allen on administrative leave, according to The Associated Press.

According to the search warrant application, “Allen advised and aided Qatari government officials” in 2017 after several other Gulf States blockaded Qatar over its alleged support for Iran, Hamas, and the Muslim Brotherhood. Following several high-level meetings, “Allen corresponded with, met with, and successfully lobbied U.S. Executive Branch officials in the United States to release public statements sought by Qatar,” the application alleges.

This support constituted a violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), the application says. FARA is a World War II-era law that “requires certain agents of foreign principals who are engaged in political activities … to make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal, as well as activities, receipts and disbursements in support of those activities.”

The application also claims to show Allen’s involvement with Imaad Zuberi, a venture capitalist who was sentenced in 2021 to twelve years in prison for a FARA violation, tax evasion, and campaign finance violations. Zuberi has donated to Democrats, including Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, and Republicans, including Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. He also reportedly met with both Joe Biden and Barack Obama during Obama’s presidency.

At the same time that Allen, Olson, and Zuberi were allegedly lobbying on behalf of Qatar, Allen allegedly “pursued at least one multi-million-dollar business deal with the Qatari government” and “received compensation for his role in the Qatar lobbying effort through his $20,000 per month consulting fee arrangement with Zuberi.” (RELATED: ‘Team Biden’ Sought To Cultivate Ties To Businessman Who’s Now Awaiting Sentencing On Federal Charges)

Allen, Olson, and Zuberi also allegedly lied about their dealings with Qatar, claiming in interviews with federal agents that they were setting up a military advisement board and not lobbying federal officials. Allen met with then-national security adviser H.R. McMaster and several members of Congress about the Qatar blockade crisis, not telling them he was receiving payments for the meetings, the application alleges.

Allen and Olson also refused to provide the federal government with emails listed in subpoenas, according to the court filing. The two men allegedly deleted emails about their lobbying scheme in 2019 after Zuberi asked them to, with Olson admitting the deletion request to federal investigators, according to the court filing.

Allen has denied any wrongdoing.

“John Allen voluntarily cooperated with the government’s investigation into this matter. 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,” a spokesman told The New York Times.

Federal agents have sought to crack down on FARA violations in recent years, with several high-profile officials ordered to amend filings under the law and several facing prosecution. Most notably, former national security adviser Michael Flynn was ordered to register as a foreign agent of Turkey, and Rudy Giuliani is currently facing an investigation for failing to register as an agent of Ukraine. Thomas Barrack, chairman of former President Donald Trump’s Presidential Inaugural Committee, was arrested and charged in 2021 with failing to register as an agent of the United Arab Emirates.