Brookings think tank president placed on leave in illegal lobbying probe


The Brookings Institution on Wednesday placed its president, retired Marine Corps Gen. John Allen, on administrative leave amid a growing federal investigation into allegations that he was involved in an illegal lobbying campaign on behalf of the wealthy Persian Gulf nation of Qatar.

Officials with the venerable Washington, D.C. think tank confirmed the decision in an email to employees. They said the FBI investigation was related to a personal trip the former general took to Qatar in 2017, before he was appointed president at Brookings.

“We want to assure you that Brookings is not subject to this investigation. Brookings has strong policies in place to prohibit donors from directing research activities,” the think tank’s board of trustees said in their email.

The announcement comes after the Associated Press reported on court filings that showed the FBI recently seized the retired general’s electronic data as part of the probe. Investigators are probing whether Mr. Allen worked behind the scenes to help Qatar influence U.S. policy during a 2017 diplomatic crisis that erupted between the gas-rich monarchy and its neighbors. He is accused of misrepresenting his role in the lobbying campaign to U.S. officials and failing to disclose that he was pursuing multimillion-dollar business deals with Qatar at the same time, the AP reported.

The federal inquiry has already resulted in a guilty plea from Richard G. Olson, a former ambassador to the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan, who pleaded guilty last week to federal illegal lobbying charges.

Gen. Allen led U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan before he was tapped to lead Brookings in 2017. He was also a strong backer of Hillary Clinton in her presidential campaign. He has denied any wrongdoing in the case.

Brookings said it received funding from Qatar in the past to support its research work and the Brookings Doha Center, which was established in 2007 before Gen.  Allen became president. As president of the think tank, Gen. Allen decided in early 2019 that the institution would not renew funding from Qatar and would close its Doha Center. It is now known as the Middle East Council on Global Affairs and has no current affiliation with Brookings.

Ted Gayer, the executive vice president of Brookings, will be acting president until his previously announced departure later in the summer, officials with the think tank said.