June 10, 2022

Senator Warren Requests Information From Secretaries Blinken, Austin on Allegations Regarding General Allen’s Illegal Lobbying for Qatar

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington D.C. - Today, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III regarding disturbing reports from earlier this week indicating that former Marine Corps General John R. Allen, President of the Brookings Institute, is under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for “making false statements and withholding ‘incriminating’ documents about his role in an illegal foreign lobbying campaign for the foreign government of Qatar.

“Americans must be able to trust that the officials that are chosen to represent them as diplomats, and to command the nation’s military forces, are not compromised by conflicts of interest and - at a minimum - do not begin secretly working for foreign governments immediately after they leave the military or foreign service,” said Senator Warren.

The reports, based on Department of Justice documents, indicate that as General Allen was “pursuing multi-million dollar business deals with the government of Qatar,” he led a “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,” and that he “played an important role in shifting the U.S.'s response.” According to authorities, Allen “lobbied then-National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster to have the Trump administration adopt more Qatar-friendly tone.” In one instance then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued a statement calling for restraint the same day Allen made that request on behalf of Qatar to McMaster. The warrant application also indicates that he “joined in the secret lobbying plan along with Richard G. Olson, a former United States ambassador to the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan,” Olson pleaded guilty to lying in ethics paperwork and violating revolving door laws on June 3. 

“Both Mr. Olson, who pled guilty to violating revolving door laws in place at the Department of State, and Mr. Allen may have violated the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA), which requires disclosures by individuals that are working on behalf of foreign interests.7 Their actions reveal the need for strong enforcement of lobbying and revolving-door laws by the Department of Justice, and additional efforts by the Department of Defense (DoD) and the State Department to ensure that officials follow the law,” wrote Senator Warren.

Senator Warren’s Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act would implement stricter rules to ban any foreign lobbying by Americans. Her DoD Ethics and Anti-Corruption Act would require explicit approval of the Secretary of State for all former senior officials of the White House and Departments of State, Defense, and Treasury who seek paid work for a foreign government or non-governmental foreign entity, and bans former senior Pentagon officials from lobbying and behind-the-scenes lobbying DoD for four years.  

Senator Warren has previously worked to hold Brookings accountable for the influence of its financial backers. In November 2018, Senator Warren sent letters to 23 U.S. lobbying firms requesting information on the scope of their lobbying services for the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia or any Saudi government-affiliated entity.