Erdoğan gov't paid over $30 million in lobbying fees to Trump's allies

The Turkish government paid over $30 million to U.S. lobbying firms to exert influence on former U.S. president Donald Trump’s administration during his four years in office, non-partisan and independent NGO Open Secrets reported on Thursday. 

Among the paid lobbyists was Rudy Giuliani, a close ally to Trump and his personal lawyer, the report noted. 

Last week, reports came out that the U.S. Department of Justice had launched a new investigation into Giuliani's work on behalf of the Turkish government and Turkish interests.

Giuliani became one of the lawyers of Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian gold smuggler who was arrested in March 2016 during a trip to Miami over his involvement with a sanctions evasion scheme in favour of the Iranian government. Zarrab, later on flipped to be a witness for the U.S. government against Mehmet Hakan Atilla, another Halkbank executive who was also arrested in 2017 in New York City. Atilla was consequently convicted and imprisoned for nearly two years before going back to Turkey. 

The exact nature of Giuliani's efforts on behalf of Zarrab or the Turkish government was never detailed since Giuliani never registered the countries he worked for, such as Turkey and Ukraine, under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

On Thursday, it was also reported that following New York, an appeals court suspended Rudy Giuliani's licence to practice law in Washington.

Giuliani tried to get charges against Zarrab dropped in 2017, and at one point, reportedly tried to mediate for exchanging prisoners with Turkey's strongman, offering Zarrab in return for American Pastor Andrew Brunson. Giuliani's visit to Ankara where he met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was reported in the New York Times in 2017. 

According to the newly published report, the Turkish government paid Giuliani's law firm Greenberg Traurig LLP more than $5 million between 2016 and 2020. 

Another close ally of Trump who was paid by the Turkish government in millions in the same period is Brian Ballard, who was the vice-chair of Trump's inaugural committee and a member of his transition team.

Ballard lobbied on behalf of the Turkish government and Halkbank as well. Ballard Partners received $1.1 million in 2017 and $750,000 in 2018 from the Turkish government, while Halkbank paid to the same firm $2.25 million in the same period.

Open Secrets reported:

The firm’s lobbying mainly focused on the State Department and Treasury Department during the Trump administration. The firm later cut ties with Halkbank a day after the bank was indicted for a massive money laundering scheme. 

Mercury Public Affairs, a D.C.-based consulting firm, is also among Turkey’s top-grossing registrants and has deep ties to Trump, the same report noted. It said:

The firm has represented the Turkish government and the Turkey-U.S. Business Council, known as TAİK. TAİK, a government-linked business advocacy organization, paid the firm nearly $3.9 million in 2018. It also only paid the firm $300,000 in 2019, and over $801,000 in 2020.

 

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