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Brookings suspends president, retired 4-star Gen. John Allen, amid Qatar lobbying investigation

The prestigious Brookings Institution on Wednesday placed its president, retired four-star Gen. John Allen, on administrative leave during a federal investigation of an illegal lobbying campaign on behalf of Qatar. The FBI recently searched Allen's electronic data as part of a federal probe into the Persian Gulf nation's influence campaign in 2017, The Associated Press reported Tuesday, citing an April 15 search warrant application evidently made public by mistake.

An FBI agent said in an affidavit included in the application that there is "substantial evidence" Allen knowingly violated federal foreign lobbying laws, made false statements, and withheld "incriminating" documents. The federal investigation hals already ensnared Richard Olson, former U.S. ambassador to the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan, and wealthy political donor Imaad Zuberi. Olson pleaded guilty last week, Zuberi is serving 12 years in prison. 

Allen, a former Marine general who led U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan before being named Brookings president in late 2017, has not been charged with any crimes. He denied all wrongdoing. 

"Gen. Allen has done nothing improper or unlawful, has never acted as an agent of Qatar or any foreign government or principal, and has never obstructed justice," spokesman Beau Phillips said in a statement Wednesday. "Through decades of public service in combat and diplomacy, Gen. Allen has earned an unmatched, sterling reputation for honor and integrity. We look forward to correcting the falsehoods about Gen. Allen that have been improperly publicized in this matter."

The Brookings Institution assured staff that the think tank itself is not a subject of the investigation. "Brookings pays Allen more than $1 million a year," AP reports, citing tax records. "The email to staff did not say whether Allen would continue to be paid while on leave."