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Westlake Legal Group > Lobbying and Lobbyists

Gregory Craig Acquitted on Charge of Lying to Justice Department

Westlake Legal Group 00dc-craig-facebookJumbo Gregory Craig Acquitted on Charge of Lying to Justice Department Mueller, Robert S III Lobbying and Lobbyists Justice Department foreign agents registration act Craig, Gregory B

WASHINGTON — Gregory B. Craig, one of Washington’s most prominent Democratic lawyers, was acquitted on Wednesday of a felony charge that he lied about work he did seven years ago for the Ukrainian government.

The jury returned the verdict after just hours of deliberation. It was a blow to the Justice Department’s effort to more aggressively crack down on foreign influence in Washington and a vindication of Mr. Craig’s high-risk strategy of taking the case to trial.

The trial exposed in detail how a foreign government was able to harness Washington’s industry of lawyers, lobbyist and public relations experts, an unflattering portrait that included at least four million dollars in secret offshore bank transfers from a Ukrainian oligarch to Mr. Craig’s law firm.

But Mr. Craig’s guilt or innocence turned on the question of whether he deliberately misled Justice Department officials who were investigating whether he should register as a foreign agent.

The case was viewed as a test of the Justice Department’s new campaign to enforce a once-obscure foreign lobbying law. Until roughly two years ago, violators of the statute, known as the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, typically received only an administrative slap on the wrist.

While Mr. Craig, 74, who served as White House counsel in the first year of the Obama administration, was not accused of violating FARA, he was accused of deceiving the officials who enforce it in an effort to avoid registering as a foreign agent. His was one of a series of foreign lobbying-related prosecutions that sprang from former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s nearly two-year investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race.

Those cases have contributed to a wave of disclosures by lobbyists and lawyers. The number of people who newly registered as foreign agents so far this year is more than twice the number of new registrants in all of 2010.

Jurors were forced to weigh Mr. Craig’s reputation as an illustrious Washington lawyer who had served two Democratic presidents against a series of electronic communications that suggested he had shaded the truth in two letters and a meeting with Justice Department officials six years ago.

The case hinged in particular on whether Mr. Craig had sought to obscure his role in promoting his law firm’s report by providing a copy to a journalist, David E. Sanger of The New York Times, who, along with a colleague, wrote a story about the report.

William Taylor, one of Mr. Craig’s lawyers, said his client had been “hounded” by overzealous prosecutors.

“The question that you need to ask is not why this jury acquitted Mr. Craig. but why the Department of Justice brought this case against an innocent man in the first place,” he said. “It’s a tragedy, it’s a disgrace, and we are glad it is over.”

Mr. Craig, smiling broadly, thanked the jurors, his friends, his family and his lawyers.

One juror, Michael G. Meyer, said, that while some jurors were “very disturbed” by Mr. Craig’s conduct, “we could not find a basis to convict him.” Mr. Meyer, 60, added that the law “was presented to us in a very narrow fashion.”

Mr. Craig’s defense team insisted that prosecutors had concocted a charge out of a few minor omissions of facts that Mr. Craig was never under any obligation to reveal. “Mr. Craig is not the kind of person who would lie to a U.S. government agency, not after a 50-year career based on character and trust,” one of his lawyers, William Murphy, told the jurors.

Prosecutors said Mr. Craig gave in to hubris and self-interest, hiding the truth of his interactions with Mr. Sanger, not only from the Justice Department, but from his own firm’s general counsel. Fernando Campoamor-Sanchez, one of the prosecutors, described Mr. Craig’s final letter to the Justice Department on the matter as a “masterpiece” of lies and half-truths.

“If you read the letter, you will find contempt for the FARA unit,” coupled with a sense of “entitlement” and self-importance, he argued. He noted Mr. Craig proposed complaining to the attorney general himself if FARA officials did not accept his viewpoint.

The Justice Department’s inquiry concerned a 2012 report that Mr. Craig and his law firm — Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom — performed for the Ukrainian government, then led by Viktor F. Yanukovych.

In hopes of burnishing Mr. Yanukovych’s tattered image in the West, his government hired Skadden to review its prosecution of a political opposition figure. The report, which earned the law firm $4.6 million, concluded that while the political leader’s rights had been violated at trial, her conviction on corruption charges was backed by evidence.

Prosecutors alleged that Mr. Craig concealed his role in Ukraine’s media strategy for the report because registering as a foreign agent would have limited his prospects for further government service and damaged his reputation. The evidence showed that he wrongly claimed that he only responded to inquiries from reporters to correct misconceptions. In fact, he had contacted Mr. Sanger, offering him an advance copy of the report and an interview about its findings before its publication.

The prosecution’s case was hampered by several problems: Justice Department officials who oversee FARA registration kept no notes of the meeting during which Mr. Craig supposedly lied to them in order to convince them to reverse their decision that he had to register as foreign agent. The prosecution never sought to call Mr. Sanger to testify.

Others knowledgeable about Mr. Craig’s involvement in Ukraine’s media plan were either convicted criminals or confessed liars. Paul Manafort, who was working for Ukraine at the time and went to become Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman, is now serving a seven and a half year prison term for fraud and other crimes. The prosecutors ruled out calling Mr. Manafort, who breached a plea agreement and tried to convince witnesses against him to lie, as a witness.

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Trial of High-Powered Lawyer Gregory Craig Exposes Seamy Side of Washington’s Elite

WASHINGTON — It is a trial tailor-made to grab the attention of this city’s power brokers: In a federal courtroom this month, one of Washington’s most prominent lawyers — a former White House counsel and attorney to global statesmen and other icons — is battling criminal charges of lying to investigators about his work for a shady foreign client.

But the most riveting aspect of the case against the lawyer, Gregory B. Craig, is not his innocence or guilt. Rather, it is the depiction of the seamy world of power brokers like Mr. Craig that prosecutors have painted during nearly two weeks of testimony and in an array of court filings.

Mr. Craig’s trial has supplanted any image of Washington’s elite as sage Brahmins with a vivid picture of the ruling class at its avaricious worst. The details include a $4 million payment shunted through a secret offshore account to Mr. Craig’s law firm, a backdated invoice, a lying publicist, a scheme to net one player’s daughter a cushy job and a bungled wiretap by a suspected Russian intelligence asset nicknamed “the angry midget.”

Taken together, they illustrate how lawyers, lobbyists and public relations specialists leapt onto slippery ethical slopes to cash in on a foreign government’s hopes of papering over its sordid reputation.

Seven years ago, Mr. Craig teamed with Paul Manafort, then a political consultant for the Ukrainian government, to help President Viktor F. Yanukovych respond to criticism over a prosecution of Ukraine’s opposition leader. Mr. Craig’s law firm collected more than $4.6 million to produce a report concluding that while the trial was flawed by Western standards, the conviction was supported by evidence.

For Mr. Craig and his law firm — Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom — getting too close to Mr. Yanukovych’s corrupt and increasingly authoritarian government posed perils, chiefly the prospect of tainting its prestigious white-shoe law practice.

Mr. Craig, now 74, faced an even more direct problem: If he went beyond producing the report to promoting it to journalists and others, he could run afoul of a decades-old federal law that requires those who represent foreign powers in the United States to disclose their actions to the Justice Department.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_79777682_4a52920e-dee7-4df4-b8ed-05eb56b685e9-articleLarge Trial of High-Powered Lawyer Gregory Craig Exposes Seamy Side of Washington’s Elite Yanukovych, Viktor F van der Zwaan, Alex United States Politics and Government Ukraine Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher&Flom LLP Schoen, Douglas E Pinchuk, Victor M Media Manafort, Paul J Lobbying and Lobbyists Legal Profession Kilimnik, Konstantin V Justice Department Gates, Richard W III (1972- ) Craig, Gregory B

Mr. Craig teamed up with Paul Manafort, then a political consultant for the Ukrainian government, to help President Viktor F. Yanukovych, pictured, respond to criticism over Ukraine’s prosecution of the opposition leader.CreditPavel Golovkin/Associated Press

Those worries faded after Skadden’s report was published in 2012. But then prosecutors began to draw back the curtain on the project, described by one publicist for Ukraine as “a loony job” for a government seeking to bolster “a terrible reputation.”

The saga began in February 2012 when Douglas E. Schoen, a high-profile Democratic pollster, contacted Mr. Craig to discuss a “potentially substantial piece of new business” — an independent review of the prosecution and imprisonment of Yulia V. Tymoshenko, Ukraine’s charismatic former prime minister and Mr. Yanukovych’s political rival. This account is based on witness statements, court filings and evidence presented at Mr. Craig’s trial, now nearing its conclusion.

The Ukrainian government was the client, but Victor Pinchuk, a Ukrainian steel magnate represented by Mr. Schoen, was footing the bill. “When Ukraine has to pay for something like this,” Rick Gates, Mr. Manafort’s longtime deputy, told one associate, “the president asks whichever oligarch whose turn it is to cover the costs.”

The main contact between Mr. Craig and the Ukrainian government was Mr. Manafort, who had become fabulously rich working for Mr. Yanukovych and was hiding his income in offshore bank accounts. Later, after Mr. Manafort served as Donald J. Trump’s campaign chairman, the special counsel investigated his financial misdeeds and brought a pair of cases that netted a seven-year prison term for Mr. Manafort.

Mr. Craig told the F.B.I. that he saw Mr. Manafort as a “tough” character and thought they could not be friends. But they could do business.

Despite misgivings by some Skadden lawyers, Mr. Craig flew to Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, to seal the deal over breakfast at Mr. Pinchuk’s palatial home. He and Mr. Manafort agreed privately that Mr. Pinchuk would pay Skadden $4 million to produce a report that Mr. Yanukovych hoped would convince Western governments that Ukraine should be allowed to join the European Union and partake of its financial benefits.

Mr. Craig had already dispatched five lawyers to Kiev when Mr. Pinchuk notified him that Mr. Yanukovych’s office had not authorized him to wire the half of the money that was due up front. Mr. Craig was furious and threatened to quit.

Victor Pinchuk, a Ukrainian steel magnate, was footing the bill for the Skadden lawyers.CreditSergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

“We will leave tomorrow, go home and say that we are lucky to be out of it,” he wrote to Mr. Manafort, who promised to deliver the money “a different way.”

The Ukrainian government planned to capitalize on Mr. Craig’s luminous reputation. Best known as the White House counsel during the first year of the Obama administration, he had represented luminaries including Kofi Annan, the former United Nations secretary general, and the Soviet dissident Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, Ukraine’s Ministry of Justice noted in a statement announcing the inquiry.

But Skadden’s fancy reputation cut the other way, too. Publicly, Ukraine’s financially strapped government said the firm would be paid only the legal limit for outside contracts of $12,000. In an August 2012 editorial with the headline, “Skadden Stink,” The Kyiv Post called that assertion “ridiculous,” noting that would cover only about 12 hours of Mr. Craig’s services alone at his standard rate. Ms. Tymoshenko’s lawyer refused to cooperate with the project unless Skadden disclosed more information.

Scrambling, Mr. Craig and Mr. Manafort agreed to raise the “official” fee to $1.25 million. Bypassing his own firm’s billing system, Mr. Craig submitted a new invoice for that amount, although the firm had already collected more than three times that sum from Mr. Pinchuk, routed through offshore bank accounts controlled by Mr. Manafort. At Mr. Manafort’s request, Mr. Craig backdated the document to before the newspaper editorial was published.

Fearing more bad publicity, he also delayed work on a follow-up project involving a second trial of Ms. Tymoshenko.

The fees were not Mr. Craig’s only problem. He also had to placate Mr. Manafort, who wanted Skadden to hire his daughter Andrea Manafort, a recent law school graduate. While Mr. Craig sought interviews for her, Skadden sent her a standard rejection letter in response to a résumé that had arrived with no cover letter.

“Thanks for your help,” Mr. Manafort wrote sarcastically in an email to Mr. Craig, attaching the rejection letter. “I see Skadden knows how to show appreciation for a $4 MILLION gift account.”

Westlake Legal Group mueller-report-people-events-promo-1552676143429-articleLarge-v3 Trial of High-Powered Lawyer Gregory Craig Exposes Seamy Side of Washington’s Elite Yanukovych, Viktor F van der Zwaan, Alex United States Politics and Government Ukraine Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher&Flom LLP Schoen, Douglas E Pinchuk, Victor M Media Manafort, Paul J Lobbying and Lobbyists Legal Profession Kilimnik, Konstantin V Justice Department Gates, Richard W III (1972- ) Craig, Gregory B

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“I am pissed,” Mr. Craig replied. In an email to the firm’s Washington head of litigation, Mitchell S. Ettinger, he wrote, “This could not have come at a worse time.”

Mr. Manafort told Mr. Craig that he would generate “seven figure annual fees,” adding that “it goes without saying that I will push all future business to wherever” his daughter ended up.

Mr. Ettinger told Mr. Craig to stress the prospect of further business because that “is the only factor that will matter” to the firm’s leaders. Describing the Ukraine report as a $1 million-a-month engagement, Mr. Craig said Ms. Manafort’s connections made up for her unimpressive grades.

Five days later, she had a job offer.

“You are the MAN,” her father wrote Mr. Craig, calling his daughter “sky high.”

At least one Skadden lawyer wondered how Mr. Yanukovych would react if the report was critical. Mr. Craig reassured him that anything would be better than the condemnation Ukraine already faced.

But while Mr. Craig insisted the report be independent, Mr. Yanukovych’s aides were apparently tracking its progress by eavesdropping on phone calls.

After Jonathan Hawker, one of the Western public relations experts hired by Ukraine, worried in a phone call that the report would be too negative, he heard from Konstantin V. Kilimnik, a Yanukovych aide. Mr. Kilimnik, whom prosecutors have linked to Russian intelligence, was nicknamed the “angry midget” for his short stature and temper.

Mr. Manafort tried to pressure Mr. Craig into getting Mr. Manafort’s daughter, a recent law school graduate, hired at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.CreditMandel Ngan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“The president’s office was very angry and concerned” about what it had heard, Mr. Kilimnik warned. He demanded a memo explaining what Mr. Hawker had meant.

The report was of limited value unless it generated publicity, so the public relations team drafted about 18 versions of a rollout plan. The team expanded to include a supposedly independent European think tank headed by Vin Weber, a former Republican congressman from Minnesota, and Tony Podesta of the now-defunct Podesta Group lobbying and public affairs firm. Prosecutors now claim Mr. Yanukovych’s political party funded the organization.

In late September 2012, Mr. Hawker laid out the strategy to Mr. Craig, Mr. Manafort, Mr. Gates and another Skadden lawyer, Alex van der Zwaan, over lunch at the opulent Harvard Club in Manhattan.

Privately, Mr. Hawker found the whole project distasteful. He ironically nicknamed it “veritas,” Latin for truth. During weeks holed up in the basement of the Kiev building where Ukraine’s prosecutors worked, he had learned they were readying new charges against Ms. Tymoshenko, including buying the wrong ambulances, tax evasion and murder.

For his part, Mr. Craig had grown increasingly worried that Mr. Yanukovych would ignore the report’s mixed conclusions and declare that Skadden had exonerated his government. That would be damaging “to the project, to this law firm, to your guy and to me,” he wrote to Mr. Manafort.

The media strategy envisioned releasing the report in advance to chosen American and European news outlets whose coverage would set the tone for others. Witnesses testified that Mr. Craig wanted to give an advance copy to David E. Sanger, a New York Times reporter in Washington.

But Mr. Craig kept changing his mind about whether he could be directly involved. Under the foreign lobbying disclosure law, if he engaged in public relations for Ukraine in the United States, he would have to register as a foreign agent.

Yulia V. Tymoshenko in 2011 during a trial in Kiev, Ukraine’s capital.CreditAssociated Press

He also had well-founded concerns about the professionalism of the public relations team. On the witness stand, Mr. Hawker acknowledged that he doctored Mr. Craig’s quotes to one publication without his permission and also lied to a Radio Free Europe reporter, denying that he represented Ukraine’s government.

Mr. Hawker warned Mr. Manafort that the strategy would fall apart without Mr. Craig, who eventually agreed to participate for two reasons: to please his foreign paymasters and to protect his reputation, Mr. Gates told the F.B.I.

Two days before the report was released, Mr. Craig hand-delivered a copy to Mr. Sanger’s home, then granted interviews to reporters from The Times and The Daily Telegraph in London. He insisted to both that Skadden never looked at whether Ms. Tymoshenko’s trial was politically motivated.

Although the Times article turned out more skeptical than Mr. Manafort, Mr. Gates and Mr. Hawker had hoped, all three proclaimed the strategy a great success.

The news coverage caught the attention of the Justice Department, but Mr. Craig, concerned about protecting his career prospects, convinced officials there that he did not need to register as a foreign agent. In a letter to the department, he insisted, erroneously, that he had responded to journalists’ inquiries only after the report was published to correct mischaracterizations.

Had he acknowledged that Skadden was involved in Ukraine’s media plan, the need for him to register as a foreign agent “would have been a slam dunk,” the federal official in charge of enforcing the foreign lobbying statute told the F.B.I., according to a summary of her interview.

The official, Heather Hunt, testified Monday that Mr. Craig told her that he had spoken to journalists on his own, not at the Ukrainian government’s request or direction.

Four years passed before federal prosecutors questioned Mr. Craig again. By then, they were deep into an inquiry into the financial misdeeds of Mr. Manafort, a sprawling investigation that led to the prosecutions of Mr. Manafort, Mr. Gates, Mr. van der Zwaan, Mr. Kilimnik — and eventually Mr. Craig.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

N.R.A. Gets Results on Gun Laws in One Phone Call With Trump

President Trump spent at least 30 minutes on the phone Tuesday with Wayne LaPierre, the chief executive of the National Rifle Association, the latest conversation in an aggressive campaign by gun rights advocates to influence the White House in the weeks since the back-to-back mass shootings in Texas and Ohio.

The call ended the way that Mr. LaPierre had hoped it would: with Mr. Trump espousing N.R.A. talking points in the Oval Office and warning of the radical steps he said Democrats wanted to take in violation of the Second Amendment.

“We have very, very strong background checks right now, but we have sort of missing areas and areas that don’t complete the whole circle,” the president told reporters Tuesday afternoon, adding, “I have to tell you that it’s a mental problem.”

“Democrats would, I believe, give up the Second Amendment,” Mr. Trump said. “A lot of the people that put me where I am are strong believers in the Second Amendment, and I am also.”

For Mr. Trump, his dealings with Mr. LaPierre and other gun rights advocates in recent weeks have been a reminder that even if his initial instinct after the mass shootings this month was to say he would press for aggressive gun legislation, any such push would be seen as a betrayal of the N.R.A. members who helped elect him.

At the N.R.A.’s annual convention in 2017, Mr. Trump assured the group’s members, “You came through for me, and I am going to come through for you.” And that is what he was doing on his call with Mr. LaPierre, according to two people familiar with their conversation, assuring Mr. LaPierre that even after another round of mass shootings, he was not interested in legislation establishing universal background checks and that his focus would be on the mental health of the gunmen, not their guns.

Mr. Trump — who did most of the talking on the call with Mr. LaPierre, according to those briefed on the conversation — made it clear that he believes there are ways to scrutinize people’s fitness for gun ownership other than the current proposals. But his latest comments on guns were the strongest sign to date that he is unlikely to make bipartisan gun legislation a priority this fall, when Congress returns from its summer recess. Without his backing, congressional Republicans said, any chance of a bipartisan bill passing the Senate is likely to be dead on arrival.

Instead, the president told Mr. LaPierre that he wanted to focus on mental health and access to juvenile criminal records. Those measures fall far short of the sweeping new restrictions that Democrats sought and that Mr. Trump said he was prepared to endorse in the immediate aftermath of the mass shootings on Aug. 3 and 4 that left more than 30 dead.

The president’s remarks also demonstrated how the N.R.A., which spent $30 million on Mr. Trump’s campaign in 2016 and stuck with him when other Republicans wavered in their support, still wields great influence over the White House, even as its own future is in question. The organization has been mired in investigations into its finances by two attorneys general, in New York and Washington, as well as a legal battle with its former advertising firm and calls from its own board members for change.

But those problems have not diminished the group’s influence in the West Wing, despite Mr. Trump’s frequent insistence to aides that Mr. LaPierre and his team are “going bankrupt.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_137694441_5ef4b48b-712e-4cac-a39c-1effd9f6d1f9-articleLarge N.R.A. Gets Results on Gun Laws in One Phone Call With Trump United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Second Amendment (US Constitution) National Rifle Assn mass shootings Lobbying and Lobbyists Law and Legislation LaPierre, Wayne gun control firearms

A video of Wayne LaPierre, the president of the N.R.A., at the organization’s annual meeting in Dallas last year.CreditJustin Sullivan/Getty Images

In a statement, Mr. LaPierre expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the call. “I spoke to the president today,” he said. “We discussed the best ways to prevent these types of tragedies. President Trump is a strong 2A President and supports our right to keep and bear arms!”

Aides to Mr. Trump insist that he is still seeking legislative action. But they acknowledge that the president’s definition of background checks is different from the type of universal background checks that Democrats have urged him to pursue. And the type of sweeping bill he is discussing — which at the moment is loosely defined and could contain several different piecemeal proposals — would be viewed warily by a number of Republican senators, as well as Democrats, who would consider it either too much or too little.

The weakening of Mr. Trump’s stated interest in pursuing what he had described this month as “very meaningful background checks” fits a pattern of behavior.

In the past, when Mr. Trump has shown a willingness to compromise on gun legislation after a mass shooting, some West Wing officials have made sure to secure an audience with the president for Mr. LaPierre and Christopher W. Cox, the N.R.A.’s former top lobbyist, who resigned in June. After the February 2018 mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., in which 17 students and staff members were killed, Mr. Trump expressed support for universal background checks, keeping guns away from mentally ill people and restricting gun sales for some young adults.

But that support quickly evaporated after a late-night Oval Office meeting with N.R.A. officials. Mr. Trump later threatened to veto a background check bill.

The N.R.A. has not been pressing its case alone. Mr. Trump has heard from a wide range of conservative allies who have warned him that he will imperil his re-election chances if he makes a deal with Democrats on guns.

The country’s leading gun group has been embattled this year amid internal fighting, investigations, financial strains and scandal. A revolt against Mr. LaPierre has already led to the departures of the N.R.A.’s president and its top lobbyist, as well as five board members, including the NASCAR team owner Richard Childress, who resigned this week.

Many of those who oppose Mr. LaPierre internally harbor hard-line gun rights views and want him gone before the 2020 election cycle begins in earnest. But the period after the shootings has provided Mr. LaPierre with an opening to show off the N.R.A.’s organizing muscle.

Earlier this month, he said he “opposes any legislation that unfairly infringes upon the rights of law-abiding citizens.” Willes K. Lee, the second vice president of the N.R.A. board and a key ally of Mr. LaPierre, went further, tweeting recently that “Nothing short of disarming America satisfies @democrats. Give them NOTHING,” and even promoting the hashtag “#allguncontrolisracist.”

This year, the House passed its first two significant gun control measures in a quarter century. One of the bills would require background checks at gun shows and on internet sites, where private buyers and sellers can arrange to meet in person to complete a sale. A second bill would increase the waiting period if a potential buyer does not immediately pass a background check, a measure aimed at closing a loophole used by Dylann S. Roof, who killed nine people in 2015 at a church in Charleston, S.C.

Those measures have stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate.

So have the so-called red flag laws, which give the police extra powers to confiscate firearms, and were the subject of a study released this week by researchers at the University of California, Davis, which said that “this urgent, individualized intervention can play a role in efforts to prevent mass shootings.”

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4 Takeaways From a Close Look at Elliott Broidy

Westlake Legal Group 13dc-takeaways-facebookJumbo 4 Takeaways From a Close Look at Elliott Broidy United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J qatar Nader, George A (1959- ) Lobbying and Lobbyists Government Contracts and Procurement Broidy, Elliott

WASHINGTON — Elliott Broidy worked his way through school at a laundromat and later became wealthy as a venture capitalist and defense contractor. Along the way, he became a pillar in the Jewish community of Los Angeles and an influential Republican fund-raiser.

In the early days of the Trump administration, Mr. Broidy worked to influence America’s foreign relations. He is under federal investigation into possible violations of lobbying laws. And his arrangements with the government of the United Arab Emirates and a Malaysian financier are of particular interest to prosecutors.

Here are some takeaways from The New York Times’s report about this Trump ally.

During the week of festivities around the inauguration, Mr. Broidy met an adviser to the United Arab Emirates, George Nader, whom he saw as an entry point to potentially lucrative business opportunities in the Middle East.

For the next several months, the two men worked closely while Mr. Nader was paid millions of dollars by the United Arab Emirates. During that time, Mr. Broidy started a campaign against Qatar, a small country in the Middle East with American military facilities that has long been considered a strategic ally of the United States.

With access to the president and top aides, Mr. Broidy promoted Qatar’s regional rivals, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, two countries from which he was seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts for his private security and intelligence firm, Circinus. Federal prosecutors are investigating these financial connections.

As part of the anti-Qatar campaign, Mr. Broidy donated $240,000 to a nonprofit media outlet, American Media Institute. That organization produced articles critical of Qatar and pieces favorable to Mr. Broidy’s clients and prospective clients.

Mr. Broidy also donated money to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Hudson Institute, two Washington think tanks, for conferences with speakers critical of Qatar. Mr. Broidy said the donations were from his own money. But in some of his communications with Mr. Nader, Mr. Broidy described the Emiratis and the Saudis as the clients of the advocacy campaign.

The exact impact of Mr. Broidy’s anti-Qatar work is unclear, but just months into his administration, Mr. Trump took credit for Saudi Arabia’s decision to isolate Qatar.

In 2009, Mr. Broidy was shunned by Republicans after he admitted paying off New York State officials to win an investment from the state pension fund. But Mr. Broidy regained his status when he became a major fund-raiser for Mr. Trump’s campaign and his inauguration, securing him a second chance at being a Republican power broker.

From this perch, Mr. Broidy offered inauguration tickets to officials from Angola, the Republic of Congo and Romania — three countries he courted for contracts that could have been worth as much as $266 million.

Mr. Broidy became the deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee. He resigned last year after it was revealed that he had agreed to pay $1.6 million in hush money to a former Playboy model with whom he had an affair. Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, advised Mr. Broidy on the arrangement.

Other administrations have closely examined the backgrounds of influential supporters, though that is a lower priority in this administration.

For example, Paul Manafort, the former chairman of Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign, earned millions working for foreign dictators and business leaders. Mr. Manafort is now serving time for financial crimes.

The chairman of Mr. Trump’s inaugural committee and close friend, Thomas J. Barrack Jr., is under investigation for possible lobbying violations.

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How a Trump Ally Tested the Boundaries of Washington’s Influence Game

WASHINGTON — Elliott Broidy had the kind of past that might have given a more traditional White House reason to keep him at a distance: A wealthy businessman, he had pleaded guilty in 2009 to giving nearly $1 million in illegal gifts to New York State officials to help land a $250 million investment from the state’s pension fund.

But on a fall day in 2017, Mr. Broidy was ushered into the West Wing. For about two hours, he met with a handful of the most powerful people on earth, including President Trump, his chief of staff, his national security adviser and Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, discussing everything from personnel recommendations to the Republican Party’s finances.

Mostly, though, according to a detailed account he later sent to an associate, Mr. Broidy talked about the Middle East, a subject that had long been important to him personally and was becoming increasingly important to him financially.

As he sat with Mr. Trump, Mr. Broidy promoted a plan for a counterterrorism force backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which he said would be supported by his private security and intelligence company, Circinus, under the leadership of Stanley A. McChrystal, the retired Army general and former commander in Afghanistan.

And at a time when Mr. Broidy was running a multimillion-dollar advocacy campaign to turn Washington against Qatar, a regional rival of the Saudis and the Emiratis, he took the opportunity to tell Mr. Trump that Qatar was part of an “axis of evil,” according to his account of the meeting.

That meeting was one of the high points of a comeback by Mr. Broidy, who after having been shunned by some Republicans in the wake of his 2009 guilty plea had worked himself into Mr. Trump’s inner circle as a top fund-raiser for his 2016 campaign and inauguration.

The stature he suddenly assumed when Mr. Trump won the election allowed him to position himself as a premier broker of influence and access to the new administration. In the process, his international business came to overlap with his efforts to influence government policy in ways that have now made him the subject of an intensifying federal investigation.

But Mr. Broidy’s tour through the White House that day was also further evidence of how Mr. Trump — who initially lacked an established network of high-dollar fund-raisers, held unformed positions on many issues and had difficulty attracting top-tier talent — came to rely on people whose backgrounds and activities would have raised red flags in other campaigns and administrations.

Among them were Paul Manafort, who was the chairman of Mr. Trump’s campaign and was later indicted for lobbying and financial crimes, and Mr. Manafort’s deputy, Rick Gates, who also helped run Mr. Trump’s inauguration. Prosecutors are still investigating whether the chairman of the inaugural committee and a close friend of the president, Thomas J. Barrack Jr., violated lobbying laws.

Few figures exploited the moment more ambitiously than Mr. Broidy, whose Oval Office meeting was just one element of a sophisticated effort to amass and exert influence in Mr. Trump’s Washington.

Bolstering his own access to the administration, Mr. Broidy enlisted a host of prominent figures to advance the interests of his companies, his clients or his causes. In addition to General McChrystal, there was the former Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon; former defense secretaries including Robert M. Gates and Leon E. Panetta; David H. Petraeus, the former C.I.A. director; and the longtime diplomat Dennis B. Ross. They gave paid speeches to groups he was funding, wrote op-eds or advised Mr. Broidy, wittingly or unwittingly becoming public faces of his efforts.

While Mr. Broidy seemed to find a sympathetic audience for his positions in the upper reaches of the administration, including his campaign against Qatar, other efforts appeared to yield little action, like an arrangement to help a Malaysian financier with legal problems in the United States. And some of Mr. Broidy’s proposals, like his plan to help set up the counterterrorism force in the Persian Gulf, went nowhere.

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Stanley A. McChrystal, the retired Army general, accompanied Mr. Broidy and his team on a trip to the Middle East.CreditSteven Senne/Associated Press

The Justice Department has been investigating, among other issues, whether Mr. Broidy violated the law by not registering as an agent of foreign interests at a time when he was promoting their causes and being paid by them, and whether, in one case, he was paid with laundered money to lobby. The Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, requires Americans to disclose efforts to shape government policy or public opinion on behalf of foreign governments and political interests. Enforcing FARA has become an increasing priority for the Justice Department.

While Mr. Broidy’s advocacy efforts could have benefited his paying clients, his representatives say the efforts were not directed or funded by those clients in a way that would require FARA registration.

“Elliott Broidy has never agreed to work for, been retained or compensated by, nor taken direction from any foreign government directly or indirectly for any interaction with the United States government, ever,” said his lawyer, Chris Clark. “Any implication to the contrary is a lie.”

But the full scope and intensity of Mr. Broidy’s activities, and the investigations into them, are only now coming into focus. Interviews and records show that:

• Federal investigators are homing in on the question of whether his involvement with the government of the United Arab Emirates and the Malaysian financier may have run afoul of FARA.

• Investigators are exploring the financial links between Mr. Broidy, the government of the United Arab Emirates and one of that government’s advisers, George Nader. According to previously unreported banking records, Mr. Nader was paid millions of dollars by the United Arab Emirates as he was working closely with Mr. Broidy on two fronts: to win security and intelligence contracts from the Emirate and Saudi governments, and to direct and fund the campaign in Washington against Qatar.

• Other banking records show that government of the United Arab Emirates continued to pay Mr. Broidy’s company tens of millions of dollars, including a payment of $24 million in late March, even as it became public that prosecutors were looking into his activities.

• Officials from one country with which Mr. Broidy has worked, Angola, say they believed his company was being paid to lobby on their behalf, rather than to provide private intelligence services, as Mr. Broidy’s representatives say.

• His efforts to help his clients in Washington were more extensive than previously known. They involved not just prominent political figures but also payments to influential think tanks, lobbyists and a nonprofit conservative media outlet that produced articles promoting his clients’ agendas and criticizing their rivals.

Four people Mr. Broidy worked with on business or advocacy efforts have been indicted. He resigned as deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee last year after it was revealed he had agreed to pay $1.6 million in hush money to a former Playboy model he impregnated, in a deal arranged by Michael D. Cohen, the president’s former lawyer.

Mr. Broidy’s current situation is a sharp turnabout from two and a half years ago, when he helped raise a record $107 million for Mr. Trump’s inauguration. He offered to arrange inaugural tickets for politicians from Angola, the Republic of Congo and Romania — countries from which he sought intelligence contracts worth as much as $266 million, documents and interviews show.

He greatly increased his giving to Republicans. He socialized with Mr. Trump at the president’s Mar-a-Lago resort, where he was a member.

Business was good. Mr. Broidy’s company won deals worth more than $200 million from the United Arab Emirates alone. The company established an office there that employs 60 people who compile intelligence reports for the U.A.E. government.

After The New York Times, The Associated Press and other news media outlets revealed last year that he had marketed his access to the Trump team to prospective foreign clients, his company lost lucrative United States government subcontracts. Members of Congress returned donations, as did the Hudson Institute, a think tank, which returned funding for a research project on Qatari influence. Mr. Ross returned $20,000 in consulting fees he had accepted in early 2018, when he was advising Mr. Broidy on how to pursue contracts with foreign governments and how to shape American foreign policy toward those governments.

Mr. Broidy offered inaugural tickets to politicians from Angola, the Republic of Congo and Romania — countries from which he was seeking defense intelligence contracts worth as much as $266 million.CreditTodd Heisler/The New York Times

“There was a cloud that was created, and it made sense just to dissociate,” said Mr. Ross, who worked on Middle Eastern policy for administrations of both parties.

Some of the activities of Mr. Broidy and his associates are detailed in hundreds of documents and emails from the private accounts of Mr. Broidy and his wife, which were distributed to reporters anonymously starting in early 2018. Mr. Broidy sued Qatar and some of its lobbyists, accusing them of orchestrating the theft and dissemination of those documents, which Qatar denies.

Mr. Broidy’s spokesman, Nathan Miller, said those documents “have been altered and cherry-picked out of context to present a false narrative about his business activities and public educational efforts that were entirely legitimate and legal.”

But this account also relies on dozens of interviews, banking records provided by people familiar with Mr. Broidy’s work and other documents submitted in court cases or obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

“He was certainly trying to influence the administration to adopt a policy that served his political preference,” Mr. Ross said in a July interview with The Times about his work with Mr. Broidy, some of which was subsequently reported by The Daily Beast. “Was he doing it because it would serve his business interests as well? Presumably yes.”

Mr. Broidy, 62, made his own fortune. He grew up middle class in Los Angeles, and paid his way through the University of Southern California by operating a laundromat. After earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance, he went to work for an accounting firm, before he was hired to handle the personal investments of one of the firm’s clients, Taco Bell’s founder, Glen Bell Jr., in the early 1980s.

After about a decade, Mr. Broidy started his own investment firm, Broidy Capital Management. He built a mansion in the hills of Bel Air and established a reputation as a generous philanthropist and pillar of Los Angeles’s Jewish community.

He assembled a large wine collection and indulged a fondness for expensive wristwatches, according to people who know him. They said he boasted that he was among the biggest private buyers of a type of 25-year-old whisky that retails for $1,800 a bottle.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Mr. Broidy’s political and business focus turned toward national security in the United States and Israel.

In 2006, he was appointed by President George W. Bush, for whom Mr. Broidy had become a top fund-raiser, to a homeland security advisory panel and the Kennedy Center board of trustees. In October 2006, Mr. Bush attended a dinner at the Bel Air mansion that raised $1 million for the Republican Party.

Some of the activities of Mr. Broidy and his associates have come to light through the circulation of documents and emails from the private accounts of Mr. Broidy and his wife, Robin Rosenzweig.CreditAlex Berliner/BEI, via Shutterstock

As the 2016 presidential campaign got underway, Mr. Broidy edged back into high-profile electoral politics, supporting a succession of senators seeking the Republican nomination, including Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas.

When Mr. Cruz dropped out, Mr. Broidy enthusiastically began raising money for the Trump campaign.

In the weeks before Mr. Trump’s inauguration, Mr. Broidy was in the center of the action.

He helped organize and fund a private breakfast at the Trump International Hotel two days before the inauguration that was attended by 50 to 60 people, according to people familiar with the event.

The guest list featured officials from Africa, Eastern Europe and Arab nations, as well as Republicans with ties to the incoming administration, including Mr. Trump’s choice for national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn.

Mr. Broidy teamed with a Nigerian-American entrepreneur to pursue an intelligence contract with the Angolan government. An early draft of the deal called for payments of as much as $64 million over five years, but someone familiar with it said the final contract was for a smaller amount.

He offered to arrange access in Washington for a pair of powerful Angolan officials who had a hand in the contract.

Days before the inauguration, the Angolans paid $6 million to Circinus. And Mr. Broidy escorted an Angolan official, André de Oliveira João Sango, then the director of external intelligence, to introductory meetings with Republican lawmakers.

A couple of days later, Mr. Sango sat at a table adjacent to Mr. Broidy’s at an exclusive “candlelight” donor dinner sponsored by Mr. Trump’s inaugural committee and attended by the president-elect, according to another Angolan official.

While Mr. Broidy’s representatives say he was not required to register as a lobbyist because he did not accept funds for lobbying, Angolan diplomats in Washington saw things differently.

“It was basically to help assist in approaching the Trump administration,” Lucombo Joaquim Luveia, a counselor at the embassy, said of the payment to Circinus.

The Angolan ambassador at the time, Agostinho Tavares, said his impression was that Mr. Broidy “sold the invitation” to the inaugural to Mr. Sango.

Mr. Luveia said that “all those arrangements were back-channeled between the lobbyist Broidy and the central government, at the presidential level., The Angolan president at the time, José Eduardo dos Santos, was replaced last year.

Mr. Broidy also provided access during inauguration week to a pair of Romanian politicians seen as critical to Circinus’s chances for doing business in the country. Mr. Broidy arranged an impromptu introduction to Mr. Trump during an informal dinner at the Trump hotel for Liviu Dragnea, then a powerful Romanian parliamentary leader.

George Nader presented himself as a liaison to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, center, the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, right.Creditvia Shutterstock

Circinus subsequently competed for Romanian government contracts valued at more than $200 million, according to the Romanian news media and people familiar with the contracting process. But the contracts did not materialize. Mr. Dragnea, who was facing unrelated corruption charges in Romania at the time of the inauguration, has since been convicted. And Romanian and American officials have questioned a former Circinus executive in Romania.

Hours after Mr. Trump’s swearing-in, Mr. Broidy was abuzz as he and his wife, holding hands, walked into a late-night party in a private room at the Trump hotel.

He approached a fellow Republican donor and, in a move the donor interpreted as an early flexing of new status, Mr. Broidy suggested it was time to settle a lingering business dispute between them.

“He was exuding hubris,” said the donor, Yuri Vanetik, a characterization disputed by Mr. Broidy’s representatives. “He wanted to show that it was his world now.”

Through the transition and the early days of the administration, Mr. Broidy entertained discussions about using his newfound connections in Washington to help an array of foreign clients.

After being approached by a lawyer working with Russian executives who were under sanctions, Mr. Broidy devised a plan to try to lift the sanctions in exchange for $11 million — a deal that ultimately was not pursued.

Separately, Mr. Broidy discussed helping to end a Justice Department investigation into a flamboyant Malaysian financier who was suspected of embezzling billions of dollars from a Malaysian investment fund.

The financier, Low Taek Jho, known as Jho Low, transferred $6 million to the law firm of Mr. Broidy’s wife, Ms. Rosenzweig, to finance the effort, according to a guilty plea for bank fraud by a former Justice Department employee in a related case.

Allies of Mr. Low also talked with Mr. Broidy about using his connections to force the extradition of a Chinese dissident living in the United States, according to the court filings.

Mr. Broidy’s lawyers said their client never discussed assisting Mr. Low in any criminal matters and never lobbied to resolve the civil issues facing the financier.

Mr. Trump took office signaling a new approach to the Middle East, setting off a scramble by governments in the region to assure that their voices would be heard by the new administration. A key figure in Mr. Broidy’s activities was Mr. Nader.

An American citizen born in Lebanon, Mr. Nader, 60, entered Mr. Broidy’s life at a fortuitous moment for both men and for Mr. Nader’s patrons — primarily Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates, though Mr. Nader also presented himself as a liaison to Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

To the princes, whose countries are closely allied, Mr. Broidy was a perfect messenger to try to turn the new American administration against Qatar.

Rick Gates, the former deputy chairman of the Trump campaign, is one of a number of Trump aides to have run into legal problems.CreditErin Schaff for The New York Times

And to Mr. Broidy, Mr. Nader was a perfect messenger to pitch Circinus’s services to the wealthy governments of the Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Not long after meeting at the Trump hotel during inauguration week, Mr. Broidy and Mr. Nader were exchanging messages about Circinus’s efforts to win hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of defense contracts with the Persian Gulf nations, and discussing the anti-Qatar campaign, according to documents and interviews.

Mr. Nader wired Mr. Broidy $2.4 million in three installments, starting less than three months after the inauguration, for the anti-Qatar public policy effort. Mr. Broidy contributed his own money, according to people familiar with the campaign. They said other donors contributed as well.

Mr. Broidy donated to two Washington think tanks — the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Hudson Institute — to fund conferences he intended to be critical of Qatar. Featured speakers included the former defense secretaries Mr. Panetta and Mr. Gates, as well as Mr. Bannon and Mr. Petraeus.

Mr. Gates and Mr. Bannon were paid about $100,000 each, while Mr. Petraeus was paid $50,000, according to interviews and contracts, which stipulated that Mr. Gates and Mr. Petraeus would meet privately with Mr. Broidy on the sidelines of the conference. The think tanks paid the speakers and were reimbursed by Mr. Broidy. Mr. Nader helped arrange Mr. Bannon’s appearance, The Daily Beast reported.

Mr. Broidy assured the think tanks that he was using only his own money and that it was not from foreign sources, according to people familiar with the conferences, who said he did not disclose that he was simultaneously pursuing business in the region.

But updates sent by Mr. Broidy to Mr. Nader list Circinus as the entity overseeing the advocacy campaign, which included plans for the conferences, op-eds, articles and congressional and media outreach, including to the Fox News host Sean Hannity, a favorite of Mr. Trump.

One update lists the Emirati and Saudi governments as the “clients” of the campaign, and a senior Saudi general, Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, who would later be blamed by his country’s leadership for the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as a consultant. Mr. Broidy’s lawyers say that the updates were early drafts and that references to the involvement of Circinus and the Saudi and Emirati governments were errors that were corrected in subsequent drafts.

Banking records obtained by The Times show that, months after the first think-tank conference, and days before the second, Mr. Nader received the first of two payments of about $5 million worth of Emirati currency from an entity controlled by the government of the United Arab Emirates.

“Any payments by the U.A.E. to Mr. Nader had absolutely nothing to do with the conferences or the broader educational initiative,” said Tim McCarten, a lawyer with the firm Latham & Watkins, who represents both Mr. Nader and Mr. Broidy. Mr. McCarten declined to specify the purpose of the payments.

The second $5 million payment came months after Mr. Nader began cooperating with prosecutors looking into whether Emirati money was funneled into Mr. Trump’s political operation.

The Justice Department has asked witnesses about the funding of the anti-Qatar campaign, as well as whether foreign money flowed into Mr. Trump’s inaugural.

In April, federal prosecutors in Brooklyn issued a subpoena for documents from the inaugural committee naming Mr. Broidy and companies with which he is associated, as well as Mr. Nader. Among others named were Mr. Dragnea, the Angolan politician Mr. Sango and Angola’s current president, João Lourenço. Mr. Lourenço previously served as the head of the Angolan Defense Ministry, and was also invited by Mr. Broidy to attend the inauguration, but did not go, according to the Angolan diplomats.

Leon E. Panetta, a former defense secretary, is among the prominent figures Mr. Broidy enlisted to advance the interests of his companies, his clients or his causes.CreditDamon Winter/The New York Times

Mr. Nader was charged in June with possession of child pornography, to which he has pleaded not guilty.

The direct impact of the anti-Qatar advocacy campaign is not clear. It coincided with Mr. Trump’s public criticism of Qatar, and his expression of support for Qatar’s rivals, the Emiratis and the Saudis, though his administration attempted to walk back some of the criticism.

Mr. Broidy paid $10,000 a month to a Democratic firm, Bluelight Strategies, which worked to harness the center-left to press the administration to be tough on Qatar, according to emails and interviews.

Mr. Broidy gave $25,000 to a nonprofit group called the Jewish Institute for National Security of America to write op-eds and host news conferences criticizing Qatar, including with a retired Air Force general, Charles F. Wald.

Another nonprofit listed by Mr. Broidy as part of the advocacy campaign, the American Media Institute, received $240,000 from Mr. Broidy in 2017, according to its tax returns. Mr. Broidy and his allies were in close contact with the group’s staff as it produced articles and op-eds that advanced the interests of his clients and prospective clients, including the government of Malaysia, while criticizing their rivals, including Qatar and the Chinese dissident.

Richard Miniter, the institute’s chief executive, said its decisions were based on news judgment, rather than Mr. Broidy’s wishes. “We get tons of ideas from both donors and nondonors, but there were no conditions on the grant to do those stories,” he said.

Mr. Miniter said he was unaware before being alerted by The Times of overlap between Mr. Broidy’s business and the subjects he wanted covered.

In correspondence around the time of the Hudson Institute conference, Mr. Broidy cited Mr. Panetta and General Wald — as well as General McChrystal — as members of Circinus’s team.

The men or their representatives say those claims were exaggerated or false.

General McChrystal acknowledged that he accompanied Mr. Broidy and his team on a trip to the Middle East, where they met with Prince Mohammed bin Zayed in the summer of 2017.

The trip came after Mr. McChrystal was offered $100,000 by Mr. Broidy, according to documents and interviews.

When Mr. Broidy later dropped the general’s name in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump interjected to say that “he thinks highly of General McChrystal,” according to Mr. Broidy’s readout.

Mr. McChrystal said he accompanied Mr. Broidy to the United Arab Emirates because it seemed as if his company was pursuing worthwhile work. But he said he declined a subsequent offer for a leadership role in the company because “it didn’t fit into my time or my interests to do any more.”

Mr. Panetta’s office said he “is not and has never been involved in” Mr. Broidy’s business.

General Wald said he turned down Mr. Broidy’s invitation to join Circinus because he felt the company’s work was “mercenary,” and because of concerns about Mr. Broidy.

“Broidy is playing for both political and financial reasons,” he said, “and it’s hard to figure out which one he is interested in mostly.”

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The Phony Patriots of Silicon Valley

Westlake Legal Group 00roose-facebookJumbo The Phony Patriots of Silicon Valley Zuckerberg, Mark E United States Politics and Government Thiel, Peter A Regulation and Deregulation of Industry Lobbying and Lobbyists Google Inc Facebook Inc Computers and the Internet Censorship Apple Inc Antitrust Laws and Competition Issues Amazon.com Inc

Not long ago, many leading technologists considered themselves too lofty and idealistic to concern themselves with the petty affairs of government. John Perry Barlow, a lion of the early internet, addressed his “Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace” to the “governments of the industrial world,” saying that for him and his fellow netizens, these creaky institutions had “no moral right to rule us nor do you possess any methods of enforcement we have true reason to fear.”

But that was before privacy scandals, antitrust investigations, Congressional hearings, Chinese tariffs, presidential tweets and Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Now, as they try to fend off regulation and avoid being broken up, some of the largest companies in Silicon Valley are tripping over their Allbirds in a race to cozy up to the United States government. These companies’ motives vary — some are vying for lucrative public-sector contracts, while others are lobbying against regulation by painting China as a red menace that must be defeated for the good of the country.

Either way, the game is the same: salute the flag, save our bacon.

The latest example of Silicon Valley’s patriotic playacting comes courtesy of Peter Thiel, the Trump-backing venture capitalist. In an op-ed in The New York Times this month, Mr. Thiel took Google to task for opening an artificial intelligence lab in Beijing while canceling a controversial Pentagon contract, accusing the company of trying to “evade responsibility for the good of the country.”

Mr. Thiel’s obvious conflicts of interest aside (he is on the board of Facebook, Google’s rival, and is the chairman of the technology firm Palantir, which has lucrative government contracts of its own), seeing him lecture anyone on patriotism is rich. He was among the first major supporters of the Seasteading movement — a group of libertarians who wanted to flee the United States and build a floating city in international waters — and in 2011, he became a New Zealand citizen after buying up property there. (“It would give me great pride to let it be known that I am a New Zealand citizen and an enthusiastic supporter of the country,” Mr. Thiel wrote in his citizenship application.)

But Mr. Thiel, who did not respond to a request for comment, is far from the only tech titan trading in his hoodie for a flag pin.

Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook chief, has also been warning that if the social network — the proud, American social network, that is — is broken up or harshly regulated, it will only be a matter of time before China takes over the global tech industry.

In an interview last year, Mr. Zuckerberg said that if Facebook were broken up by American regulators, “the alternative, frankly, is going to be the Chinese companies.”

David Marcus, one of Mr. Zuckerberg’s lieutenants and the executive in charge of Facebook’s digital currency project, called Libra, echoed that point while testifying before Congress last month.

“I believe that if America does not lead innovation in the digital currency and payments area, others will,” Mr. Marcus said. “If we fail to act, we could soon see a digital currency controlled by others whose values are dramatically different.”

Mr. Zuckerberg, who speaks Mandarin, is an odd choice to lead the charge against China. He has spent much of the last decade trying desperately to curry favor with the Chinese government in hopes of getting Facebook’s apps — which are banned there — permission to operate in one of the world’s most lucrative markets. Mr. Zuckerberg even reportedly offered to let Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, name his second child. (Mr. Xi declined.)

Google, too, is rallying around the flag. The company’s chief executive, Sundar Pichai, went to the White House to visit with President Trump in March, to discuss government contracts and reassure the president that Google does not discriminate against conservatives. This month, in a series of tweets attacking Mr. Pichai and Google, President Trump recalled that meeting, which he described as “Mr. Pichai working very hard to explain how much he liked me, what a great job the Administration is doing, that Google was not involved with China’s military, that they didn’t help Crooked Hillary over me in the 2016 Election.”

Like Mr. Zuckerberg, Mr. Pichai was a China booster before he began distancing himself from the country. Last year, Mr. Pichai had a large team of Google engineers building a prototype search engine, called Dragonfly, that was designed to be compatible with China’s censorship regime. The project was dropped amid heated internal dissent from Google employees. But it reportedly would have blocked sites like Wikipedia, as well as other material considered objectionable by Chinese authorities.

Amazon and Apple, two tech giants that love America so much that they have gone to elaborate lengths to avoid paying taxes to its Treasury, are also promoting themselves as national champions. After President Trump criticized Apple’s plans to do some of the assembly of its Mac Pro in China, the company reiterated its desire to keep much of the computer’s assembly in the United States. And Amazon’s chief executive, Jeff Bezos, has knocked rival firms for insufficient patriotism, saying that “if big tech companies are going to turn their back on the U.S. Department of Defense, this country is going to be in trouble.”

Representatives for Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple all declined to comment.

Conspicuous patriotism is not a new tactic for companies accused of bad behavior. In the 1980s and 1990s, defenders of American tech giants like IBM and Microsoft argued that those companies’ monopolistic behaviors were necessary to stave off competition from Japanese rivals. During World War II, Hollywood movie studios delayed a federal antitrust crackdown, in part by agreeing to help the military in the war effort.

Meredith Whittaker, a co-founder of the AI Now Institute at New York University and a former Google employee, characterized the tech industry’s scaremongering about China as a tactical move meant to deflect criticism.

“It’s a really convenient narrative,” Ms. Whittaker said. “It evokes nationalism and a red scare trope that has worked in the past. And it implies that regulation, accountability, and taking a pause to consider ethics would be counter to ‘winning.’”

Patriotic posturing may be a cynical tactic, but it could also be a smart one. Today’s big tech companies are in a better negotiating position than most industries under fire. The meteoric growth of companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon has bolstered the American stock market and made Silicon Valley a global innovation hub. Even if the motives of the tech giants are questionable, the importance of technologies like 5G connectivity and artificial intelligence to the country’s competitive position isn’t lost on lawmakers.

Representative Ro Khanna, a Democrat who represents parts of Silicon Valley in Congress, has called for greater regulation of tech companies. But in an interview this month, he told me that the risk of losing ground to China worried him.

“There is a risk that we could see a Berlin digital wall,” Mr. Khanna said. “The question is, are the values of liberty, privacy and freedom of speech going to be embedded in technology platforms? China’s platforms do not have many of the values that liberal democracies believe in.”

There is nothing inherently wrong with the belief that America’s values are superior to those found in Shanghai and Shenzhen, or that American tech companies should act in the country’s best interest. But lawmakers should be appropriately wary of Silicon Valley’s charm campaign, and they should avoid conflating what’s good for Facebook, Google and other tech companies with what’s good for the nation. Tech executives might be whistling “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy,” but they really just want to be left alone.

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Prominent Lawyer’s Trial Will Test Crackdown on Unregistered Foreign Agents

Westlake Legal Group 11DC-CRAIG-facebookJumbo Prominent Lawyer’s Trial Will Test Crackdown on Unregistered Foreign Agents United States Politics and Government Ukraine Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher&Flom LLP Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Manafort, Paul J Lobbying and Lobbyists Kian, Bijan Justice Department foreign agents registration act Flynn, Michael T Craig, Gregory B

WASHINGTON — Not long before Christmas 2012, Paul Manafort, then a foreign lobbyist, congratulated Gregory B. Craig, a well-known Washington lawyer, on the release of a report that Mr. Manafort had commissioned to help Ukraine’s pro-Russian president polish his image in the West.

“Well done,” Mr. Manafort wrote in an email to Mr. Craig after the lawyer had briefed American journalists on the report, which largely justified the criminal prosecution of the Ukrainian leader’s political rival.

Government officials in Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, “are especially happy with the way the media is playing it,” Mr. Manafort wrote, later adding, “You are ‘THE MAN.’”

“I am glad it went so well,” Mr. Craig replied.

Seven years later, that email exchange will be evidence in a criminal trial that has shaken Washington’s lobbying, consulting and public relations industry to its core. Mr. Craig, 74, is charged with deceiving Justice Department officials who sought to determine whether he should have registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, commonly known as FARA, for work that earned his law firm more than $4.6 million.

His trial, which starts Monday and is expected to last about two weeks, is widely viewed as a litmus test of the Justice Department’s growing effort to hold more foreign lobbyists criminally responsible for conduct the agency once treated as mere administrative infractions. Although Mr. Craig is charged with lying to federal law enforcement officials — not for failing to register as a foreign agent — defense lawyers said his indictment signified a sea change in the Justice Department toward those who failed to disclose their foreign lobbying work.

“The fact that there is a Greg Craig trial shows how much the atmosphere has changed,” said Matthew T. Sanderson, a defense lawyer who specializes in foreign lobbying cases at the law firm of Caplin and Drysdale. “The Justice Department is going after some high-profile scalps.”

In a video posted on YouTube after his indictment, Mr. Craig predicted he would be exonerated at trial. “I did not participate in a scheme to mislead the government or conceal material facts,” he said. “This prosecution is unprecedented and unjustified. I am confident that both the judge and the jury will agree with me.”

If convicted, Mr. Craig faces up to five years in prison, although recent defendants charged with the same offense have been sentenced to from two weeks to a month behind bars.

In the past two years, almost all of the high-profile cases against unregistered foreign agents sprang from the investigation by the former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III into Russian influence on the 2016 presidential election. Mr. Mueller’s team convicted three former aides to Mr. Trump of crimes that encompassed FARA violations: Mr. Manafort, who served as Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign manager; Rick Gates, the former deputy campaign manager; and Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump’s first national security adviser.

But when the special counsel’s office closed up shop in May, the Justice Department signaled that its scrutiny of foreign lobbyists would continue. The department put one of Mr. Mueller’s prosecutors, Brandon L. Van Grack, in charge of a revamped FARA unit, declaring that the foreign lobbying disclosure act was “increasingly an enforcement priority.”

How far the prosecutors can push the once-obscure, 81-year-old statute is an open question.

Critics claim that the statute is as vague as it is broad, a problem already evident in the case against Mr. Craig, a former White House counsel under President Barack Obama. Days before his trial was to begin, Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed one of two counts of false statements against Mr. Craig, saying the language of the FARA statute was too ambiguous to justify it.

The department’s enforcement drive is also hampered by a vast exemption for lobbyists who are paid by foreign commercial entities, even though business leaders are often stand-ins for foreign government officials who will pay millions to lobbyists to promote their interests in the West.

On the other hand, prosecutors often have an advantage in the courtroom when FARA cases make it that far. Juries are typically unsympathetic to consultants, lobbyists and lawyers who enrich themselves by working for a foreign power but hide their work from their own government. “It is hard to feel sorry for that cohort of people,” said Mr. Sanderson, the defense lawyer.

Consider the most recent case: the prosecution of Bijan Kian, who was accused of failing to disclose lobbying work for the Turkish government. Mr. Kian is a former business partner of Mr. Flynn, the former national security adviser who is awaiting sentencing on charges of filing false documents to Justice Department officials about the Turkish lobbying work, as well as lying to F.B.I. investigators about a different matter.

The federal judge who presided over the trial complained that the evidence against Mr. Kian, who also goes by the name Bijan Rafiekian, was “very, very circumstantial.”

Jurors nevertheless deliberated only five hours before finding him guilty last month of working as an unregistered foreign agent and conspiring to violate FARA, including by submitting false documents. Whether the judge upholds that verdict or throws it out will help define the legal parameters of the department’s new enforcement effort.

Mr. Craig’s trial will focus on a now familiar narrative of how Mr. Manafort led a far-flung effort to burnish the reputation of Viktor F. Yanukovych, who served as Ukraine’s president from 2010 to 2014. Mr. Manafort is now serving a seven-and-a-half-year prison term for conspiracy and financial crimes, including some stemming from that work.

Seeking to shore up Mr. Yanukovych’s image in the West, Mr. Manafort recruited Mr. Craig’s law firm, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, to produce a report on the corruption case against a political rival of Mr. Yanukovych, the former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

According to the indictment charging Mr. Craig, he wrote a memo for his own files stating that the evidence of Ms. Tymoshenko’s criminal intent was “virtually nonexistent.” But the report he spearheaded found that the evidence presented at her trial supported the conviction that led to her imprisonment.

The reaction of American journalists to the Skadden Arps report was of intense interest to Mr. Manafort, to public relations officials hired to spin the report’s conclusions, and to Mr. Craig, prosecutors say. Following a carefully calculated news media strategy, Mr. Craig delivered an advance copy to The New York Times and volunteered to be interviewed by Times reporters, court filings show.

After the report’s publication in December 2012, Justice officials asked Mr. Craig a series of questions, including how much the law firm had been paid and whether the firm’s lawyers had discussed it with journalists.

Mr. Craig insisted that he had discussed the document with journalists only after it had become public and purely to “correct misinformation,” according to court filings. He did not indicate that the law firm had been paid more than $4 million by a Ukrainian oligarch, whose funds were routed through offshore accounts, disclosing only a fraction of the firm’s payments, prosecutors claim.

Although Mr. Craig was well aware of FARA’s requirements, prosecutors say, he misled the Justice Department officials because he did not want to limit his future career prospects by registering as a foreign agent. They claim he repeated some of his misleading statements to the special counsel’s team, as well.

The government’s witness list includes Mr. Craig’s own former law partners. In January, the firm agreed to pay the Justice Department $4,657,568.91 to settle an investigation into FARA violations.

That amount represents precisely what it was paid for its Ukraine report.

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The Next Front In the Fight Over Gun Control? Virginia

CENTREVILLE, Va. — At door after door, house after house, Dan Helmer, a Democrat running for the Virginia House of Delegates, found voters of both parties telling him one thing as he canvassed for support Tuesday night: Do something about the mass shootings.

“I have it on the TV right now,” Reza Darvishian, a State Department security engineer, told Mr. Helmer on the porch of his home. “I’m sick of listening to all of this stuff.”

That’s not what the Republican incumbent in the race, Tim Hugo, says he is hearing from his constituents. Gun violence is of comparatively little concern to voters, Mr. Hugo said. Instead they want to talk about the same issues that have animated suburban voters for the generation he’s been in office.

“I ask people, ‘How can I help?’” Mr. Hugo said. “The answers that come back are transportation, schools, taxes and even illegal immigration.”

The mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, last weekend have rebooted the national discussion over gun violence and ignited a bitter fight between Democrats and President Trump over whether his divisive rhetoric encouraged the violence. Now Virginia’s off-year elections in November loom as the first political battlefield on the issue. Republicans hold only one-vote majorities in both the House and Senate. Democrats are aiming to capture both chambers and pass new gun control legislation next year.

[Mitch McConnell has expressed willingness to consider a background check bill.]

The Virginia elections will help measure the potency of the issue with voters after a series of mass shootings that has outraged many Americans. And it will match the resources of the movement’s biggest supporter, former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, against the National Rifle Association, the long-dominant Virginia-based gun rights organization that faces internal turmoil and a steady loss of influence.

The 2018 midterms marked the first time the N.R.A. was outspent by gun control groups in a national campaign.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_134721030_a52ae229-8e92-43d2-ab95-d02cc307cba5-articleLarge The Next Front In the Fight Over Gun Control? Virginia Virginia Politics and Government National Rifle Assn mass shootings Lobbying and Lobbyists gun control firearms Elections, State Legislature

Tim Hugo, second from right, won a ninth term as a delegate in 2017, but only by 106 votes.CreditSteve Helber/Associated Press

The issue is already highly charged in Virginia, which had its own mass shooting in May, when 12 people were killed in a Virginia Beach municipal building. The massacre prompted the Democratic governor, Ralph Northam, to call a special session in July and ask lawmakers to consider a package of eight gun control proposals, including banning assault-style weapons and implementing universal background checks.

Using their razor-thin majority, Republicans ended the session after 90 minutes and referred the gun control questions to a state crime commission, which it asked to present a report on the issue a week after Election Day.

“We’re much better off in a less political atmosphere to come back after the election and consider a comprehensive solution,” said Kirk Cox, the speaker of the state House of Delegates.

Now Mr. Cox and Mr. Hugo are the top targets for Democrats and gun control proponents. Both represent suburban districts long in Republican control where voters have rejected the party in the Trump era.

“This will be the first thing on the docket,” said former Gov. Terry McAuliffe. “People are fired up. People are sick and tired of saying, ‘My thoughts and prayers are with you,’ and they want action.”

[Sign up for our politics newsletter and join the conversation around the 2020 presidential race.]

The Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund, the political arm of Mr. Bloomberg’s gun control organization, said this week that it would invest at least $2.5 million in Virginia before Election Day — more than it spent in either of the last two legislative elections there. The group polled 14 legislative districts this week to determine how it will allocate its funds.

“Virginia is a bellwether state and we are going to be there,” said John Feinblatt, Everytown’s president. “There is no doubt this is a test. This is the next theater for what’s going to happen everywhere in 2020.”

With its odd-year elections, Virginia has a long record of serving as a leading indicator for national contests the following year. The state’s voters in 2009 were the first to reject Democrats in the Obama era, foreshadowing the rise of the Tea Party, and did the same to Republicans in 2017 following President Trump’s election. That year, Democrats swept out a generation of long-tenured suburban Republican lawmakers while coming within a coin flip in a tied race of winning control of the state’s House of Delegates for the first time since 1999.

Virginia remains a complex state demographically and culturally, with wide swaths of rural areas where Confederate flags are common and belief in gun rights sacrosanct. But the current gun control debate comes as the state has nearly completed a Republican-to-Democratic transition in statewide elections, as urban and suburban voters have swung hard away from Republicans over the last decade.

The stakes in Virginia extend beyond gun politics. Mr. Northam is eager to write a legacy beyond his connection to disputed blackface photos in his medical school yearbook that emerged in February; some Virginia Democrats believe he would jump at the chance to sign a slate of progressive legislation in a state long been known for its permissive gun laws.

A vigil for victims of the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton was held outside the National Rifle Association’s headquarters in Fairfax, Va., on Monday.CreditAnna Moneymaker/The New York Times
Biden and Booker Say Trump Is Fostering Hatred, Not Fighting It

Aug 7, 2019

A Gun-Focused Special Session in Virginia Ends Abruptly

Jul 9, 2019

After Another Mass Shooting, Another Virginia Governor Tries to Change Gun Laws

Jun 4, 2019

Was That Ralph Northam in Blackface? An Inquiry Ends Without Answers

May 22, 2019

While Republicans hope to lower the temperature on gun politics, Democrats are trying to keep it high. Mr. Helmer’s pitch to voters begins with his Army service in Afghanistan and Iraq and pivots directly to a call for new gun restrictions. Mr. Cox’s Democratic challenger in the suburbs south of Richmond, Sheila Bynum-Coleman, tells voters of how her teenage daughter survived being shot outside a party in 2016.

“People want to see something done now,” she said in an interview Wednesday. “That is the No. 1 thing that we are hearing out in the community, especially after what has happened this weekend, is that we want to see something done now.”

[Which Democrats are leading the 2020 presidential race this week?]

Virginia Democrats’ optimism about seizing control in Richmond lies in the broader electoral trends in suburbs here and across the country. Mitt Romney won the Centreville district by four percentage points in 2012. Four years later, Hillary Clinton carried it by 10 points. Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia won it by 18 points in 2018.

In 2017, Mr. Hugo won a ninth term as a delegate, but only by 99 votes.

Mr. Helmer has built his campaign around his identity as an Army veteran and his support for the robust suite of gun control measures Mr. Northam proposed.

Former Representative Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, who was shot and critically injured in 2011, has endorsed Mr. Helmer and appeared with him at a March fund-raiser. Ms. Giffords endorsed Ms. Bynum-Coleman after the truncated special session in July.

Sheila Bynum-Coleman at a fund-raiser in Washington on Wednesday.CreditSamuel Corum for The New York Times

“In the lulls between these terrible national events, it’ll be the second or third thing people bring up to you,” Mr. Helmer said as he drove from his campaign headquarters to a Centreville neighborhood of four-and five-bedroom houses. “But increasingly, it’s moved up.”

He said that even the Trump voters he had encountered told him the time had come to enact robust gun control measures.

“Too many people that shouldn’t have guns have them and they should be controlled,” said Marie Mills, an 85-year-old retiree from Tennessee who moved to Virginia to live with her adult son.

Sophia Bohle, a 50-year-old real estate agent whose teenage son, Stratis, volunteers for Mr. Hugo, said there should be new gun restrictions at both the state and federal level.

“I think it should be a privilege to have a gun, not a right,” she said.

Both women, who described themselves as Trump-supporting independents, said they would consider voting for Mr. Helmer to reduce gun violence.

As in other states, the N.R.A. is closely aligned with Virginia’s Republican officials. During the special session, the N.R.A.’s political team worked from the speaker’s conference room down the hall from Mr. Cox’s office. Mr. Cox said the space is a public meeting room open to anyone who needs to use it.

“Kirk Cox did not talk to the N.R.A. before the special session,” Mr. Cox said, using the third person. “There are constant meetings in all of those rooms.”

Defeating Kirk Cox, center, the speaker of the House of Delegates, is a top priority for Democrats this fall.CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

Like Mr. Cox and Mr. Hugo, Chris Kopacki, the N.R.A.’s Virginia state director, contended that gun issues are low on voters’ list of priorities. He added that there was little room for compromise to be had with Democrats seeking to implement new gun restrictions. Mr. Kopacki said there are “hundreds of thousands” of N.R.A. members and supporters in the state who are prepared to organize to back Republicans in November and oppose gun control measures in Richmond.

“Compromise is common on many legislative issues, but when it comes to gun rights, Governor Northam and his allies are only interested in positions that restrict the rights of law-abiding Virginians and not in seeking real solutions to violence,” Mr. Kopacki said.

Other Republicans expressed more concern and suggested the party would be wise to demonstrate a willingness to work with Democrats to show they are doing something about gun violence.

“No Republican is going blind into this election,” said Tucker Martin, who was an aide to Virginia’s last Republican governor, Bob McDonnell. “They know exactly how challenging it is and they won’t be surprised by it.”

Mr. Hugo said he’s supportive of expanding Virginia’s so-called red-flag laws but declined to say whether the legislature should consider universal background checks. John Fredericks, who was the chairman of Mr. Trump’s Virginia campaign in 2016, on Tuesday warned Republicans of electoral calamity in November if they do not first act on gun control measures.

Big losses this November, Mr. Fredericks said on his conservative talk radio program, would allow the Democrats to not only enact a sweeping liberal agenda on gun control, health care and other issues but also give the party control of the next redistricting process, potentially flipping three congressional seats and locking Republicans out of majorities in Richmond for a decade.

“Here’s my message to Republicans: if you don’t do something, you’re going to get annihilated in the suburbs in 2019,” Mr. Fredericks said. “And that’s the end of Republicans in Virginia for a generation.”

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Trump Friend’s Ties to Mideast at Heart of Lobbying Inquiry

WASHINGTON — As Donald J. Trump was preparing to deliver an address on energy policy in May 2016, Paul Manafort, his campaign chairman, had a question about the speech’s contents for Thomas J. Barrack Jr., a top campaign fund-raiser and close friend of Mr. Trump.

“Are you running this by our friends?” Mr. Manafort asked in a previously undisclosed email to Mr. Barrack, whose real estate and investment firm does extensive business in the Middle East.

[Watch “The Weekly”: The Money Behind the Most Expensive U.S. Inauguration]

Mr. Barrack was, in fact, coordinating the language in a draft of the speech with Persian Gulf contacts including Rashid al-Malik, an Emirati businessman who is close to the rulers of the United Arab Emirates.

The exchanges about Mr. Trump’s energy speech are among a series of interactions that have come under scrutiny by federal prosecutors looking at foreign influence over his campaign, his transition and the early stages of his administration, according to documents and interviews with people familiar with the case.

Investigators have looked in particular at whether Mr. Barrack or others violated the law requiring people who try to influence American policy or opinion at the direction of foreign governments or entities to disclose their activities to the Justice Department, people familiar with the case said.

The inquiry had proceeded far enough last month that Mr. Barrack, who played an influential role in the campaign and acts as an outside adviser to the White House, was interviewed, at his request, by prosecutors in the public integrity unit of the United States attorney’s office in Brooklyn.

Mr. Barrack’s spokesman, Owen Blicksilver, said that in expectation of this article, Mr. Barrack’s lawyer had again contacted the prosecutors’ office and “confirmed they have no further questions for Mr. Barrack.”

Mr. Barrack has not been accused of wrongdoing, and his aides said he never worked on behalf of foreign states or entities. Asked about the status of the inquiry, a representative for the United States attorney’s office in Brooklyn declined to comment.

The relationship between Mr. Barrack, Mr. Manafort and representatives of the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia, including Mr. al-Malik, has been of interest to federal authorities for at least nine months. The effort to influence Mr. Trump’s energy speech in 2016 was largely unsuccessful.

The special counsel’s two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election has ended and federal prosecutors in Manhattan have signaled that it is unlikely they would file additional charges in a separate hush money investigation that ensnared members of Mr. Trump’s inner circle.

But as the scrutiny of Mr. Barrack indicates, prosecutors continue to pursue questions about foreign influence. Among other lines of inquiry, they have sought to determine whether Mr. Barrack and others tried to sway the Trump campaign or the new administration on behalf of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, two closely aligned countries with huge stakes in United States policy.

Between Mr. Trump’s nomination and the end of June, Colony Capital, Mr. Barrack’s real estate investment and private equity firm, received about $1.5 billion from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates through investments or other transactions like asset sales, Mr. Barrack’s aides said. That included $474 million in investment from Saudi and Emirati sovereign wealth funds, out of $7 billion that Colony raised in investment worldwide.

An executive familiar with the transactions had provided The New York Times with somewhat different figures last year.

Investigators have also questioned witnesses about Mr. Barrack’s involvement with a proposal from an American group that could give Saudi Arabia access to nuclear power technology. And they have asked about another economic development plan for the Arab world, written by Mr. Barrack and circulated among Mr. Trump’s advisers.

Aides to Mr. Barrack, who is of Lebanese descent and speaks Arabic, said he had always acted as an independent intermediary between Persian Gulf leaders and the Trump campaign and administration, never on behalf of any foreign official or entity.

“The ideas he was giving voice to were his ideas,” said Tommy Davis, Mr. Barrack’s former chief of staff, who continues to work for him. “These are ideas that he has been advocating for decades.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_138491229_be193c2e-3c62-4ed0-8759-054baa703c3a-articleLarge Trump Friend’s Ties to Mideast at Heart of Lobbying Inquiry United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United Arab Emirates Trump, Donald J Presidential Election of 2016 Persian Gulf Middle East Manafort, Paul J Lobbying and Lobbyists Inaugurations foreign agents registration act Ethics and Official Misconduct Colony Capital LLC Barrack, Thomas J Jr

President Trump with Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates.CreditAndrew Harnik/Associated Press

He said Mr. Barrack had no incentive to lobby on behalf of any particular country or countries in the Persian Gulf because his business interests and policy concerns span the entire region and countries at odds with one another.

Nor is there any evidence, Mr. Barrack’s aides said, that either Mr. Barrack or his Los Angeles-based company has profited from his efforts.

“There is zero pay to play here,” Mr. Blicksilver, Mr. Barrack’s spokesman, said. “That is supported by the facts and the numbers.”

For Mr. Barrack, 72, the inquiry has unfolded amid a series of other setbacks. A friend of Mr. Trump since the 1980s, he had anticipated that his efforts to elect Mr. Trump, help run his transition team and manage his inauguration would land him a prominent role in the administration.

But Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, blocked Mr. Barrack from becoming a special envoy to the Middle East. A proposed role as a kind of superambassador to Central and South America did not materialize either.

At the same time, Colony Capital encountered substantial difficulties after a troubled merger drove down its stock price and forced a series of management changes.

Mr. Trump’s inauguration in January 2017 was a high point for Mr. Barrack: The inaugural committee he led set records for the amount of money raised and spent to celebrate an inauguration.

But critics claimed the inaugural became a hub for peddling access to foreign officials and business leaders, or people acting on their behalf. The United States attorney’s office in Manhattan opened an investigation into possible violations of campaign finance law, focusing partly on whether foreigners, who were barred from contributing to the $107 million inaugural fund, illegally funneled donations through Americans.

Questions about whether Mr. Barrack complied with the Foreign Agents Registration Act, commonly known as FARA, arose during the Russia inquiry led by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and were referred to the United States attorney’s office in Brooklyn.

Three of the six former Trump aides who were charged by the special counsel acknowledged violating the foreign lobbying statute in their guilty pleas: Mr. Manafort, Rick Gates, who served as deputy campaign chairman for Mr. Trump in 2016, and Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser.

But while the Justice Department has been trying for several years to step up criminal enforcement of FARA requirements, such cases are typically difficult to prove. Whether someone is acting at the behest of a foreign official “is a very hard thing to investigate or to decide,” Adam S. Hickey, the deputy assistant attorney general in charge of the national security division, said in a recent interview.

Central to the inquiry into Mr. Barrack are his dealings with Mr. al-Malik, who is well connected in the court of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates widely known by his initials, M.B.Z., and is close to the prince’s brother, Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed, who oversees the United Arab Emirates’ intelligence services. Sheikh Hamdan is considered to be Mr. al-Malik’s patron and a major financier of his business activities.

When Mr. Trump was elected, Mr. al-Malik received a coveted invitation to the inaugural’s most exclusive event — the chairman’s dinner, hosted by Mr. Barrack.

In early 2018, Mr. al-Malik gave an interview and provided documents to federal prosecutors who questioned whether he had been acting as an unregistered foreign agent in the United States, according to two people familiar with the matter. After he was interviewed, Mr. al-Malik left for the United Arab Emirates and has not returned to the United States.

William F. Coffield, a lawyer for Mr. al-Malik, said that he “voluntarily cooperated with the special council’s office,” adding, “They accepted his cooperation and they certainly aren’t going after him.”

Investigators have documented a string of instances in which Mr. Barrack appears to have tried, with feedback from Mr. al-Malik and others, to shape the message of the Trump campaign or new administration in ways that were more friendly to Middle East interests.

Although he was not always successful, Mr. Barrack had substantial sway within the campaign when it was overseen by Mr. Manafort, a longtime friend, and Mr. Manafort’s deputy, Mr. Gates.

Mr. Trump’s inauguration in January 2017 was a high point for Mr. Barrack. The inaugural committee he led set records for the amount of money raised and spent to celebrate an inauguration.CreditChang W. Lee/The New York Times

Mr. Barrack recommended that Mr. Trump hire Mr. Manafort, who rose to campaign chairman before he was fired over a separate foreign lobbying scandal. Mr. Manafort, who was awash in debt and had no income, had hoped that after the campaign Mr. Barrack would use his deep ties to the oil-rich nations to drum up business for them both, according to people familiar with the situation.

In one email to the U.A.E.’s ambassador in Washington, Mr. Barrack promoted Mr. Manafort as someone who was “totally programmed” on the alliance between the Saudis and Emiratis.

Mr. Manafort, in turn, was willing to describe Mr. Barrack to foreign officials as someone who could speak for the campaign on all subjects.

The Times learned of some of Mr. Barrack’s electronic correspondence from people critical of Emirati foreign policy and from people familiar with his work with the Trump campaign.

In early May 2016, Mr. Barrack asked Mr. al-Malik and other Persian Gulf contacts to propose language for a draft of an energy speech that Mr. Trump was to deliver in Bismarck, N.D., that month.

Mr. Barrack’s draft of the speech cited a new generation of leaders in the Gulf region, naming both the Emirati crown prince and his ally, Mohammed bin Salman, then deputy crown prince of Saudi Arabia. The Saudi prince, often referred to by his initials, M.B.S., has now consolidated his control of the kingdom.

Mr. Barrack’s aides said he tried to influence Mr. Trump’s address because he cares deeply about United States relations with the Persian Gulf region and was worried that Mr. Trump’s inflammatory campaign messaging would damage them. Among other provocative statements, Mr. Trump had vowed that, if elected, he would bar Muslims from entering the United States.

When Mr. Trump and a campaign speechwriter rejected Mr. Barrack’s draft, Mr. Manafort wrote to Mr. Barrack, “Send me an insert that works for our friends and I will fight for it.”

In the end, to Mr. Barrack’s disappointment, Mr. Trump made only a passing reference to the need to work with “gulf allies” on “a positive energy relationship as part of our antiterrorism strategy.”

A few days later, Mr. Manafort emailed Mr. Barrack that “on the platform issue there is another chance to make our gulf friends happy.” He was referring to language in the Republican Party platform to be approved at the convention where Mr. Trump would formally become the nominee.

In late June, Mr. Manafort alerted Mr. Barrack that Mr. Trump had softened his stance on a Muslim ban. Mr. Barrack quickly forwarded the email to Yousef al-Otaiba, the Emirates’ powerful ambassador in Washington.

Then in July, Mr. Barrack informed Mr. Otaiba that the Trump team had removed language from the proposed Republican platform that would have called for the disclosure of redacted pages related to Saudi Arabia in a report on the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

“Really confidential but important,” he wrote, enclosing campaign emails on the subject. “Please do not distribute.”

Two days later, Congress released the passages, which detailed contacts between Saudi officials and some of the hijackers.

Mr. Barrack tried to set up a meeting that summer between Mr. Manafort and Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi deputy crown prince, but it was canceled at the last moment.

The month after Mr. Trump clinched the Republican nomination, Mr. Barrack traveled to the Persian Gulf and met with the Saudi prince and the Emirati crown prince, aides said. At a dinner meeting in Saudi Arabia, he was briefed on the kingdom’s economic plan.

In a subsequent text to Mr. Manafort, Mr. Barrack sounded elated.

“Amazing meetings. Off the map,” he wrote. “A lot to talk about and do.”

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Federal Inquiry of Trump Friend Focused on Foreign Lobbying

WASHINGTON — As Donald J. Trump was preparing to deliver an address on energy policy in May 2016, Paul Manafort, his campaign chairman, had a question about the speech’s contents for Thomas J. Barrack Jr., a top campaign fund-raiser and close friend of Mr. Trump.

“Are you running this by our friends?” Mr. Manafort asked in a previously undisclosed email to Mr. Barrack, whose real estate and investment firm does extensive business in the Middle East.

Mr. Barrack was, in fact, coordinating the language in a draft of the speech with Persian Gulf contacts including Rashid al-Malik, an Emirati businessman who is close to the rulers of the United Arab Emirates.

The exchanges about Mr. Trump’s energy speech are among a series of interactions that have come under scrutiny by federal prosecutors looking at foreign influence over his campaign, his transition and the early stages of his administration, according to documents and interviews with people familiar with the case.

Investigators have looked in particular at whether Mr. Barrack or others violated the law requiring people who try to influence American policy or opinion at the direction of foreign governments or entities to disclose their activities to the Justice Department, people familiar with the case said.

The inquiry had proceeded far enough last month that Mr. Barrack, who played an influential role in the campaign and acts as an outside adviser to the White House, was interviewed, at his request, by prosecutors in the public integrity unit of the United States attorney’s office in Brooklyn.

Mr. Barrack’s spokesman, Owen Blicksilver, said that in expectation of this article, Mr. Barrack’s lawyer had again contacted the prosecutors’ office and “confirmed they have no further questions for Mr. Barrack.”

Mr. Barrack has not been accused of wrongdoing, and his aides said he never worked on behalf of foreign states or entities. Asked about the status of the inquiry, a representative for the United States attorney’s office in Brooklyn declined to comment.

The relationship between Mr. Barrack, Mr. Manafort and representatives of the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia, including Mr. al-Malik, has been of interest to federal authorities for at least nine months. The effort to influence Mr. Trump’s energy speech in 2016 was largely unsuccessful.

The special counsel’s two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election has ended and federal prosecutors in Manhattan have signaled that it is unlikely they would file additional charges in a separate hush money investigation that ensnared members of Mr. Trump’s inner circle.

But as the scrutiny of Mr. Barrack indicates, prosecutors continue to pursue questions about foreign influence. Among other lines of inquiry, they have sought to determine whether Mr. Barrack and others tried to sway the Trump campaign or the new administration on behalf of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, two closely aligned countries with huge stakes in United States policy.

Between Mr. Trump’s nomination and the end of June, Colony Capital, Mr. Barrack’s real estate investment and private equity firm, received about $1.5 billion from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates through investments or other transactions like asset sales, Mr. Barrack’s aides said. That included $474 million in investment from Saudi and Emirati sovereign wealth funds, out of $7 billion that Colony raised in investment worldwide.

An executive familiar with the transactions had provided The New York Times with somewhat different figures last year.

Investigators have also questioned witnesses about Mr. Barrack’s involvement with a proposal from an American group that could give Saudi Arabia access to nuclear power technology. And they have asked about another economic development plan for the Arab world, written by Mr. Barrack and circulated among Mr. Trump’s advisers.

Aides to Mr. Barrack, who is of Lebanese descent and speaks Arabic, said he had always acted as an independent intermediary between Persian Gulf leaders and the Trump campaign and administration, never on behalf of any foreign official or entity.

“The ideas he was giving voice to were his ideas,” said Tommy Davis, Mr. Barrack’s former chief of staff, who continues to work for him. “These are ideas that he has been advocating for decades.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_138491229_be193c2e-3c62-4ed0-8759-054baa703c3a-articleLarge Federal Inquiry of Trump Friend Focused on Foreign Lobbying United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United Arab Emirates Trump, Donald J Presidential Election of 2016 Persian Gulf Middle East Manafort, Paul J Lobbying and Lobbyists Inaugurations foreign agents registration act Ethics and Official Misconduct Colony Capital LLC Barrack, Thomas J Jr

President Trump with Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates.CreditAndrew Harnik/Associated Press

He said Mr. Barrack had no incentive to lobby on behalf of any particular country or countries in the Persian Gulf because his business interests and policy concerns span the entire region and countries at odds with one another.

Nor is there any evidence, Mr. Barrack’s aides said, that either Mr. Barrack or his Los Angeles-based company has profited from his efforts.

“There is zero pay to play here,” Mr. Blicksilver, Mr. Barrack’s spokesman, said. “That is supported by the facts and the numbers.”

For Mr. Barrack, 72, the inquiry has unfolded amid a series of other setbacks. A friend of Mr. Trump since the 1980s, he had anticipated that his efforts to elect Mr. Trump, help run his transition team and manage his inauguration would land him a prominent role in the administration.

But Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, blocked Mr. Barrack from becoming a special envoy to the Middle East. A proposed role as a kind of superambassador to Central and South America did not materialize either.

At the same time, Colony Capital encountered substantial difficulties after a troubled merger drove down its stock price and forced a series of management changes.

Mr. Trump’s inauguration in January 2017 was a high point for Mr. Barrack: The inaugural committee he led set records for the amount of money raised and spent to celebrate an inauguration.

But critics claimed the inaugural became a hub for peddling access to foreign officials and business leaders, or people acting on their behalf. The United States attorney’s office in Manhattan opened an investigation into possible violations of campaign finance law, focusing partly on whether foreigners, who were barred from contributing to the $107 million inaugural fund, illegally funneled donations through Americans.

Questions about whether Mr. Barrack complied with the Foreign Agents Registration Act, commonly known as FARA, arose during the Russia inquiry led by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and were referred to the United States attorney’s office in Brooklyn.

Three of the six former Trump aides who were charged by the special counsel acknowledged violating the foreign lobbying statute in their guilty pleas: Mr. Manafort, Rick Gates, who served as deputy campaign chairman for Mr. Trump in 2016, and Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser.

But while the Justice Department has been trying for several years to step up criminal enforcement of FARA requirements, such cases are typically difficult to prove. Whether someone is acting at the behest of a foreign official “is a very hard thing to investigate or to decide,” Adam S. Hickey, the deputy assistant attorney general in charge of the national security division, said in a recent interview.

Central to the inquiry into Mr. Barrack are his dealings with Mr. al-Malik, who is well connected in the court of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates widely known by his initials, M.B.Z., and is close to the prince’s brother, Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed, who oversees the United Arab Emirates’ intelligence services. Sheikh Hamdan is considered to be Mr. al-Malik’s patron and a major financier of his business activities.

When Mr. Trump was elected, Mr. al-Malik received a coveted invitation to the inaugural’s most exclusive event — the chairman’s dinner, hosted by Mr. Barrack.

In early 2018, Mr. al-Malik gave an interview and provided documents to federal prosecutors who questioned whether he had been acting as an unregistered foreign agent in the United States, according to two people familiar with the matter. After he was interviewed, Mr. al-Malik left for the United Arab Emirates and has not returned to the United States.

William F. Coffield, a lawyer for Mr. al-Malik, said that he “voluntarily cooperated with the special council’s office,” adding, “They accepted his cooperation and they certainly aren’t going after him.”

Investigators have documented a string of instances in which Mr. Barrack appears to have tried, with feedback from Mr. al-Malik and others, to shape the message of the Trump campaign or new administration in ways that were more friendly to Middle East interests.

Although he was not always successful, Mr. Barrack had substantial sway within the campaign when it was overseen by Mr. Manafort, a longtime friend, and Mr. Manafort’s deputy, Mr. Gates.

Mr. Trump’s inauguration in January 2017 was a high point for Mr. Barrack. The inaugural committee he led set records for the amount of money raised and spent to celebrate an inauguration.CreditChang W. Lee/The New York Times

Mr. Barrack recommended that Mr. Trump hire Mr. Manafort, who rose to campaign chairman before he was fired over a separate foreign lobbying scandal. Mr. Manafort, who was awash in debt and had no income, had hoped that after the campaign Mr. Barrack would use his deep ties to the oil-rich nations to drum up business for them both, according to people familiar with the situation.

In one email to the U.A.E.’s ambassador in Washington, Mr. Barrack promoted Mr. Manafort as someone who was “totally programmed” on the alliance between the Saudis and Emiratis.

Mr. Manafort, in turn, was willing to describe Mr. Barrack to foreign officials as someone who could speak for the campaign on all subjects.

The Times learned of some of Mr. Barrack’s electronic correspondence from people critical of Emirati foreign policy and from people familiar with his work with the Trump campaign.

In early May 2016, Mr. Barrack asked Mr. al-Malik and other Persian Gulf contacts to propose language for a draft of an energy speech that Mr. Trump was to deliver in Bismarck, N.D., that month.

Mr. Barrack’s draft of the speech cited a new generation of leaders in the Gulf region, naming both the Emirati crown prince and his ally, Mohammed bin Salman, then deputy crown prince of Saudi Arabia. The Saudi prince, often referred to by his initials, M.B.S., has now consolidated his control of the kingdom.

Mr. Barrack’s aides said he tried to influence Mr. Trump’s address because he cares deeply about United States relations with the Persian Gulf region and was worried that Mr. Trump’s inflammatory campaign messaging would damage them. Among other provocative statements, Mr. Trump had vowed that, if elected, he would bar Muslims from entering the United States.

When Mr. Trump and a campaign speechwriter rejected Mr. Barrack’s draft, Mr. Manafort wrote to Mr. Barrack, “Send me an insert that works for our friends and I will fight for it.”

In the end, to Mr. Barrack’s disappointment, Mr. Trump made only a passing reference to the need to work with “gulf allies” on “a positive energy relationship as part of our antiterrorism strategy.”

A few days later, Mr. Manafort emailed Mr. Barrack that “on the platform issue there is another chance to make our gulf friends happy.” He was referring to language in the Republican Party platform to be approved at the convention where Mr. Trump would formally become the nominee.

In late June, Mr. Manafort alerted Mr. Barrack that Mr. Trump had softened his stance on a Muslim ban. Mr. Barrack quickly forwarded the email to Yousef al-Otaiba, the Emirates’ powerful ambassador in Washington.

Then in July, Mr. Barrack informed Mr. Otaiba that the Trump team had removed language from the proposed Republican platform that would have called for the disclosure of redacted pages related to Saudi Arabia in a report on the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

“Really confidential but important,” he wrote, enclosing campaign emails on the subject. “Please do not distribute.”

Two days later, Congress released the passages, which detailed contacts between Saudi officials and some of the hijackers.

Mr. Barrack tried to set up a meeting that summer between Mr. Manafort and Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi deputy crown prince, but it was canceled at the last moment.

The month after Mr. Trump clinched the Republican nomination, Mr. Barrack traveled to the Persian Gulf and met with the Saudi prince and the Emirati crown prince, aides said. At a dinner meeting in Saudi Arabia, he was briefed on the kingdom’s economic plan.

In a subsequent text to Mr. Manafort, Mr. Barrack sounded elated.

“Amazing meetings. Off the map,” he wrote. “A lot to talk about and do.”

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