WASHINGTON (AP) — Two well-connected political consultants offered false details about lobbying work on behalf of a rich Persian Gulf nation through the Trump administration, in keeping with Justice Division courtroom information unsealed Tuesday.

Charging paperwork filed in federal courtroom in Washington allege that Barry P. Bennett, an adviser to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential marketing campaign, spearheaded a covert and profitable lobbying marketing campaign geared toward advancing the pursuits of a overseas nation, together with by denigrating a rival nation.

The nation for whom the work was completed just isn’t named within the paperwork however it matches the outline of Qatar, which in 2017 paid Bennett’s firm $2.1 million for lobbying work, and was recognized in a 2020 Justice Division subpoena that was earlier obtained by The Related Press and that sought information associated to Bennett’s overseas lobbying.

Federal prosecutors filed two felony counts in opposition to Bennett in a charging doc often called an info, which is often filed solely with a defendant’s consent and customarily indicators that the events have reached a decision. Prosecutors mentioned the case might be dismissed after he complies with the phrases of a deferred prosecution settlement, together with the cost of a $100,000 effective.

The Justice Division additionally reached an analogous settlement with Douglas Watts, a New Jersey political guide who prosecutors say labored alongside Bennett and did not register below the International Brokers Registration Act.

The legislation, enacted in 1938 to unmask Nazi propaganda in the USA, requires individuals to confide in the Justice Division once they advocate, foyer or carry out public relations work within the U.S. on behalf of a overseas authorities or political entity.

A lawyer for Bennett didn’t instantly return messages despatched to his legislation agency. Justin Dillon, a lawyer for Watts, declined to remark Tuesday night. An electronic mail to the Qatari embassy was not instantly returned.

In response to the Justice Division, Bennett signed a contract in 2017 for his firm, Avenue Methods, to carry out lobbying work on behalf of the Qatari embassy. He additionally registered with the Justice Division that yr to foyer for the embassy.

However as a part of that technique, prosecutors mentioned he additionally covertly operated one other firm known as Yemen Disaster Watch that operated a public relations marketing campaign to denigrate one in all Qatar’s unnamed rivals — each Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had been engaged in army operations in Yemen that critics say contributed to a humanitarian disaster — and enhance Qatar’s standing with the U.S. authorities.

That effort included lobbying Congress and Trump, in addition to a social media marketing campaign, publishing opinion articles in newspapers and producing a tv documentary, in keeping with prosecutors. Yemen Disaster Watch urged the general public to contact their lawmakers and urge them to “stop supporting” the intervention in Yemen by Qatar’s unnamed rival, prosecutors mentioned.

Robert Schuller, a distinguished televangelist, and former Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer each helped Yemen Disaster Watch’s efforts, in keeping with earlier reporting from the Wall Avenue Journal and the Topeka Capital-Journal. Neither man has been charged with any wrongdoing and messages despatched to them weren’t instantly returned.

Prosecutors say Bennett’s consulting firm didn’t disclose in its FARA filings the creation of Yemen Disaster Watch, and that Watts made false statements throughout interviews with the FBI about his data of the corporate’s formation and its actions.

The case is amongst severalprobes by federal legislation enforcement officers associated to Qatar’s aggressive affect marketing campaign through the Trump administration, when it was the goal of a blockade by Saudi Arabia and different neighbors.


Suderman reported from Richmond, Virginia.

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