Justice Dept. Drops Investigation of Retired U.S. General
WASHINGTON — The Justice Department has informed John R. Allen, a retired four-star Marine general, that federal prosecutors have closed an investigation into whether he secretly lobbied for the government of Qatar and that no criminal charges will be brought against him in the case, according to a statement by General Allen’s lawyer.
The investigation of General Allen became public in June, when an F.B.I. agent’s application to search his electronic communications was unsealed, possibly by accident. Days after the revelations, General Allen resigned as president of the Brookings Institution, a left-leaning think tank in Washington.
The F.B.I. agent’s application provided a detailed account of a period in June 2017, when General Allen met frequently with Richard G. Olson, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan, and Imaad Zuberi, a businessman with ties in the Middle East. General Allen traveled to Doha, Qatar, during that period.
Federal prosecutors have signaled a particular interest in potential violations involving Persian Gulf nations, which have developed close ties to business and political figures in the United States.
“We have been informed by the Department of Justice National Security Division and the U.S. attorney’s office for the Central District of California that the investigation of General John R. Allen (Ret.) has been closed and that no criminal charges will be brought against General Allen under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or any other law, based on, or as a result of, General Allen’s trip to Qatar in June 2017 or the government’s investigation of those events,” said David Schertler, General Allen’s lawyer.
A law enforcement official who spoke on the condition of anonymity confirmed the decision, which has not been previously reported. The Justice Department and the U.S. attorney’s office for the Central District of California declined to comment.
According to the F.B.I. agent’s application, General Allen was recruited by Mr. Olson and Mr. Zuberi to help defuse a diplomatic crisis between Qatar and its Persian Gulf neighbors — and the former general saw the moneymaking potential for his involvement.
Beau Phillips, a spokesman for General Allen, said General Allen asked senior officials in President Donald J. Trump’s National Security Council if the U.S. government wanted him to meet with the Qataris. Mr. Phillips said Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, who was Mr. Trump’s national security adviser at the time, approved General Allen’s trip and offered the assistance of his staff in preparation. General McMaster confirmed that he had approved General Allen’s trip.
Mr. Phillips said General Allen then traveled to Qatar in June 2017 to meet with Qatari officials, including the emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, to discuss resolving the diplomatic crisis. After General Allen returned to Washington, he briefed National Security Council officials on his trip.
The F.B.I. agent’s application said that General Allen had agreed to travel to Doha at Mr. Zuberi’s expense and negotiated a payment of $20,000, which he referred to as a “speaker’s fee.”
“General Allen has never acted as an agent of the Qatari government,” Mr. Phillips said. “He never had an agreement — written or oral — with Qatar or any other Qatar-related individual or entity. Neither General Allen nor any entity with which he was or is affiliated ever received fees — directly or indirectly — from the Qatari government for his efforts. Brookings never received a contribution from Qatar or any Qatari government-related entities or individuals in connection with General Allen’s activities.”
Federal law requires that anyone lobbying for a foreign government register with the Justice Department, and in recent years the department has tried to crack down on suspected violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA.
Last year, a high-profile FARA case collapsed when a jury acquitted Thomas J. Barrack Jr., a friend and informal adviser to Mr. Trump, on charges that he had worked as an agent of the United Arab Emirates and then lied to federal investigators about it.
Mr. Schertler, General Allen’s lawyer, said, “It is deeply unfortunate, unfair and contrary to law that General Allen’s reputation and livelihood were wrongly damaged by the public release of confidential grand jury information.”