John R. Allen, the retired four-star general who once commanded US forces in Afghanistan, resigned as president of the Brookings Institution on Sunday, six days after court proceedings revealed evidence that he had secretly lobbied for Qatar. .
His resignation is the latest indication of the seriousness of the federal investigation involving the general. Brookings, a 106-year-old research center and a mainstay of the liberal establishment in Washington, had placed General Allen on administrative leave last Wednesday.
“The integrity and objectivity of the Brookings Scholarship are the institution’s most important assets, and Brookings is committed to upholding high ethical standards in all of its operations,” wrote Glenn Hutchins and Suzanne Nora Johnson, co-chairs of the board of trustees of the institution, on Sunday in an email to staff. “Our policy on research independence and integrity reflects these values.”
In a statement, General Allen said, “While it is with a heavy heart that I leave the institution, I know it is best for everyone involved at this time.” His statement made no reference to the files or any investigation.
The newly disclosed filing that led to the firing was an April application by federal prosecutors for an injunction to search General Allen’s electronic communications. In the filing, prosecutors cited reports General Allen had apparently sent to make payments for work to help Qatar win Washington’s support in a feud with its regional rivals, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
In the spring of 2017, those rivals led an attempt to strangle Qatar by cutting diplomatic ties and blocking trade with the country, accusing the government of supporting extremism.
Qatar is home to a major US air base, and General Allen, who recently left the government, appears to have demanded a payment of $20,000 billed as a “speaker’s fee” for a weekend trip to advise Qatar’s rulers on the crisis.
The filing cited reports of General Allen seeking to “work out a more complete arrangement of a long-term relationship” and attempting to negotiate business deals with Qatar for two companies he was affiliated with during the same trip.
Prosecutors also charged in the filing that General Allen lied about his role and withheld evidence sought by subpoena.
A spokesman for General Allen called the story presented in the file “factually inaccurate, incomplete and misleading”.
The spokesman, Beau Phillips, said in a statement that the general had done nothing wrong or illegal, never acted as an agent of Qatar or any foreign government and never obstructed justice.
General Allen was hired to travel to Qatar by Richard G. Olson, a former US ambassador to the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan, and Imaad Zuberi, a businessman with ties to the Middle East. Mr. Olson has agreed to plead guilty to violating a ban on lobbying a foreign government in the period immediately after leaving the diplomatic service.
Mr Zuberi, who paid for the trip to Qatar, is serving a prison sentence for violating foreign lobbying, campaign finance and tax laws, as well as obstruction of justice.