WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 8, 2022)–The FBI has seized the electronic data of a retired four-star general who authorities say made false statements and withheld “incriminating” documents about his role in an illegal foreign lobbying campaign on behalf of the wealthy Persian Gulf nation of Qatar.
New federal court filings obtained Tuesday outlined a potential criminal case against former Marine Gen. John R. Allen, who led U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan before being tapped in 2017 to lead the influential Brookings Institution think tank.
It’s part of an expanding investigation that has ensnared Richard G. Olson, a former ambassador to the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan who pleaded guilty to federal charges last week, and Imaad Zuberi, a prolific political donor now serving a 12-year prison sentence on corruption charges. Several members of Congress have been interviewed as part of the investigation.
The court filings detail Allen’s behind-the scenes efforts to help Qatar influence U.S. policy in 2017 when a diplomatic crisis erupted between the gas-rich Persian Gulf monarchy and its neighbors.
“There is substantial evidence that these FARA violations were willful,” FBI agent Babak Adib wrote in a search warrant application, referring to the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
Allen also misrepresented his role in the lobbying campaign to U.S. officials, Adib wrote, and failed to disclose “that he was simultaneously pursuing multimillion-dollar business deals with the government of Qatar.”
The FBI says Allen gave a “false version of events” about his work for Qatar during a 2020 interview with law enforcement officials and failed to produce relevant email messages in response to an earlier grand jury subpoena.
The 77-page search warrant application appears to have been filed in error and was removed from the docket Tuesday after The Associated Press reached out to federal authorities about its contents.
Allen declined to comment on the new filings. He has previously denied ever working as a Qatari agent and said his efforts on Qatar in 2017 were motivated to prevent a war from breaking out in the Gulf that would put U.S. troops at risk.
Allen spokesperson Beau Phillips told AP last week that Allen “voluntarily cooperated with the government’s investigation into this matter.”
Allen, who was a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution prior to becoming president, used his official email account at the think tank for some of his Qatar-related communications, the affidavit says.
Brookings did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Qatar has long been one of Brookings’ biggest financial backers, though the institution says it has recently stopped taking Qatari funding.
Olson was working with Zuberi on another matter involving Qatar in mid-2017 when Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other Gulf countries announced a blockade of Qatar over its alleged ties to terror groups and other issues.
Shortly after the blockade was announced, then-President Donald Trump appeared to side against Qatar.
The court papers say Allen played an important role in shifting the U.S.’s response. Specifically, authorities say Allen lobbied then-National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster to have the Trump administration adopt more Qatar-friendly tone.
Former Marine General Allen was tapped by then President Barack Obama to oversee the withdrawal of 33,000 troops from Afghanistan. In 2013, Obama proceeded with Allen as NATO’s supreme allied commander in Europe after the Pentagon cleared him of professional misconduct over emails to a Florida socialite.
In 2013, Allen, was “ensnared in the scandal that prompted retired General David Petraeus to resign as CIA director last year after his affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, was exposed,” according to Reuters.
Further in 2013, “the FBI investigated Jill Kelley’s allegations of receiving “anonymous, harassing emails from someone else about Petraeus. Those other emails led the FBI to uncover the affair between Petraeus and Broadwell,” according to Reuters.
Kelley was “one of the women at the center of the Petraeus scandal.”
Source: AP News and Reuters contributed to the article.