A former high-ranking diplomat who served under Barack Obama has pled guilty to illegal lobbying.
Richard Olson pled guilty Friday to trying to influence the Trump administration on Qatar’s behalf, the Washington Post reported.
Former Obama ambassador pleads guilty
A longtime Foreign Service officer, Olson served as Obama’s ambassador to Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates as well as a U.S. Special Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan.
He was once described by Obama Swamp creature John Kerry, who is now serving in the Biden administration, as “simply one of our most distinguished diplomats.”
But Olson now faces a year in prison each on two misdemeanor charges, one for working for a foreign government within a year of serving a government post, and the other for lying on ethics paperwork.
In 2017, Olson was paid $20,000 a month by a Pakistani-American businessman who is serving 12 years in prison for corruption, Imaad Zuberi, to pressure Washington to side with Qatar during a naval blockade by its Gulf neighbors, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Olson kept hidden on ethics forms that Zuberi paid for a flight to London where Olson stayed at a luxury hotel and met with a Bahraini businessman who offered him a $300,000 a year one-year contract.
Nothing but politics?
While pleading guilty, Olson implicated a retired Marine general, John Allen, and asked why he had not been charged. Allen led U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan before serving as president of the liberal Brookings Institution. Qatar is one of the group’s biggest donors, ABC reported.
Many have questioned why Olson hasn’t been charged under FARA with unregistered foreign lobbying, and it appears political favoritism may be in play.
Several allies of Trump have been charged with the crime, including Donald Trump’s friend and inaugural committee chairman Tom Barrack, who performed unregistered lobbying for the UAE, Qatar’s rival.
Josh Rosenstein, a lawyer at Sandler Reiff Lamb Rosenstein & Birkenstock, told Politico that the charges against Olson may have been intended to downplay perceptions that the DOJ is biased against Trump and his allies, although it’s doubtful many will be convinced.
Olson will be sentenced in September.