A former diplomat under then-President Barack Obama has pleaded guilty to allegations he attempted to unduly influence foreign policy during President Donald Trump’s term.
Richard G. Olson, who was then-President Barack Obama’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2015 and 2016, admitted that he lied on ethics paperwork and broke so-called ‘revolving door’ statutes, according to a report in The Washington Post.
The report noted that the misdemeanor violations came in connection with Olson lobbying for Qatar within a year of his retirement from the federal government.
The Post added:
In pre-plea proceedings in federal court in Washington, Olson’s defense counsel said he admitted to the misdemeanor charges — each punishable by up to one year in prison at his sentencing Sept. 13 — and cooperated with federal prosecutors on the understanding that they were also investigating and pursuing criminal charges against retired four-star Marine Gen. John G. Allen. The latter commanded U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring in 2013. He was tapped in late 2017 as president of Washington’s influential Brookings Institution, to which Qatar agreed in 2013 to donate $14.8 million over four years.
The two men are the latest high-level American officials to be enmeshed in a long-running federal investigation into a ferocious — and lucrative — battle for influence in Washington waged between the wealthy Persian Gulf nation of Qatar and its regional rival the United Arab Emirates, as Donald Trump prepared to take office and engage in new rounds of Middle East diplomacy.
The paper also reported that in July 2021, Thomas Barrack, Jr., a longtime billionaire friend of Trump and his presidential inaugural committee chairman, was charged with obstructing justice and acting on behalf of the UAE without being registered as a foreign lobbyist.
Also, U.S. businessman Imaad Zuberi, who is a major donor to both political parties, was sentenced in February 2020 to 12 years behind bars after he pledged guilty to tax evasion, foreign influence-peddling, and violations of campaign finance laws.
In court papers, Olson admitted he failed to disclose in required annual ethics forms that he accepted a first-class airline ticket from New Mexico to London, as well as a stay in a luxury hotel in January 2015 — all of which were worth approximately $20,000 — from a Pakistani-American businessman who was not identified by the federal government but whose description matches Zuberi, the Post reported.
“Olson admitted meeting with a Bahrain businessman, who would offer him a one-year $300,000 contract for work after he left the State Department,” the paper said.
Olson admitted in plea documents filed with a federal court in June 2017 that he contacted an unnamed third person who is defense identified as Allen in order to help “provide aid and advice to Qatari government officials with the intent to influence” American foreign policy following a blockade of Qatar by the UAE and ally Saudi Arabia.