Brookings Puts President on Leave as FBI Probes Qatar Links

TBrookings Institution’s renown president was placed on leave by its board Wednesday, amid federal investigations into Allen’s role in illegal lobbying campaigns for Qatari wealth.

Brookings’ announcement came a day after The Associated Press reported on new court filings that show the FBI recently seized Allen’s electronic data as part of the probe and detailed his behind-the scenes efforts to help Qatar influence U.S. policy in 2017 when a diplomatic crisis erupted between the gas-rich monarchy and its neighbors.

Allen, who led NATO and U.S. troops in Afghanistan prior to being appointed as Brookings’ leader in 2017, was not charged with any crime. Beau Phillips (his spokesman) said that Allen was innocent of any wrongdoing or illegal.

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“Through decades of public service in combat and diplomacy, General Allen has earned an unmatched, sterling reputation for honor and integrity,” Phillips said in a statement. “We look forward to correcting the falsehoods about General Allen that have been improperly publicized in this matter.”

Brookings told staffers in an email Wednesday that the institute itself is not under investigation and that the think tank’s executive vice president, Ted Gayer, will serve as acting president.

“We have every confidence in the Brookings team’s ability to remain focused on delivering quality, independence, and impact,” the email said.

According to the most recent tax records, Brookings pays Allen over $1 million per year. Staff were not informed in the email whether Allen would be continued to receive payments while on leave.

Richard G. Olson (a former Ambassador to Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates) has pleaded guilty last week to federal charges. Imaad Zuberi is a prolific political donor currently serving 12 years in prison for corruption. Interviews with other members of Congress were conducted as well.

An FBI agent said in an affidavit in support of a search warrant there was “substantial evidence” that Allen had knowingly broken a foreign lobbying law, and had made false statements and withheld “incriminating” documents.

Allen’s behind-the-scenes work involved traveling to Qatar and meeting with the country’s top officials to offer them advice on how to influence U.S. policy, as well as promoting Qatar’s point of view to top White House officials and Congress, according to the FBI affidavit.

A request for comment was not received by the Qatar Embassy immediately.

Brookings, one of America’s most important thinkers, has maintained strong links to Qatar for many years. Brookings backed in Qatar, the Brookings Center was funded by the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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The Qatari government said in a 2012 news release that the center’s role included “reflecting the bright image of Qatar in the international media, especially the American ones,” according to a New York Times report that showed Qatar had given Brookings $14.4 million in donations over a four-year span.

Brookings is a non-profit organization and does not need to report its donors. However, it discloses certain data. According to its annual reports, Qatar gave at least $2,000,000 per year between 2016 and 2021.

Brookings announced in a statement the decision of Allen in 2019 not to accept any additional donations from Qatar, and that it would close Brookings’ Doha Centre.

“Brookings has strong policies in place to prohibit donors from directing research activities,” said the email to staffers Wednesday.

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