Using Deception, Saudis Tricked Veterans Into Lobbying Congress On Their Behalf
As part of their scheme to funnel money to newly-elected President Donald Trump, lobbyists funded by Saudi Arabia tricked American veterans into lobbying the U.S. government on their behalf, the Washington Post reported this week.
That effort, which involved paying for about 500 nights of hotel stays at Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., was purportedly aimed at undoing the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), which opened the door for families of 9/11 victims to sue the Saudi government.
President Barack Obama vetoed the bill, but Congress subsequently overrode his decision and it took effect in September 2016.
This story begins with a group offering vets free trips (funded by the Saudis) to the capital in order to lobby lawmakers in late 2016. …
The vets, who were told that the bill would allow other countries to charge U.S. troops for crimes committed overseas, stayed in two non-Trump hotels on their first trips to Washington. But then the organizer found an opening at Trump’s lavish spot in downtown D.C. Michael Gibson, who helped run the trips on behalf of the Saudis, said this had nothing to do with the regime’s trying to curry favor with a new U.S. president. He also said the rooms, which averaged $768 a night at the time, were provided at a discount.
In the end, however, the lobbying effort appeared more as cover for the Saudi desire to float money to the president, according to some of the veterans who spoke with the Post.
[T]hey said they weren’t given detailed briefings about how the law ought to be amended, or policy briefings to leave behind for legislators to study.
The timing also was odd. They returned five times in January and February, when the issue was largely dormant and Washington was distracted by a new president’s inauguration. They were sent, again and again, for dead-end meetings with legislators who had made up their minds.