Richard Olson, a former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates (“UAE”) during the Obama administration, has been criminally charged for failing to disclose his role in a lobbying campaign for the Qatari government. According to court documents, Olson plans to plead guilty.
The Department of Justice (“DOJ”) charged Olson with making false statements in ethics paperwork and violating laws restricting foreign lobbying by ex-federal officials, both misdemeanors. Federal law prohibits senior U.S. officials from participating in any lobbying or public relations efforts on behalf of foreign governments within a year of leaving office.
Olson allegedly worked with a Pakistani American contact and high-level Qatari government officials to advance Qatar’s interests in Washington, receiving $20,000 in monthly payments from the Pakistani American lobbyist for the work. According to the indictment, Olson worked to persuade American officials to establish a U.S. Customs and Border Protection preclearance facility in the main airport in Doha, Qatar. Additionally, when Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt cut diplomatic ties with Qatar in 2017 and blockaded flights and ships from Qatar, citing financial support for terrorism, Olson lobbied U.S. government officials to encourage the U.S. government to help get the blockade lifted and repair diplomatic relations among the Persian Gulf nations.
While Olson never registered as a foreign agent of Qatar, he is not charged with violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
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