DOJ Opens Probe Into Former Trump Adviser Barry Bennett Over Qatari Venture: REPORT

Thomas Catenacci 

The Department of Justice is reportedly investigating Barry Bennett, a lobbyist and campaign adviser to former President Donald Trump, over a venture assisting the Qatari government.

Prosecutors are probing allegations that Bennett set up an advocacy organization as part of his work lobbying for the Qatari government without disclosing the group’s foreign ties, The Wall Street Journal reported. Yemen Crisis Watch, the group funded and started by Bennett in 2017, was reportedly created with the sole purpose of embarrassing Saudi Arabia and the UAE, two major geopolitical foes of Qatar.

Yemen Crisis Watch was “created to promote awareness of the atrocities and humanitarian crisis unfolding in Yemen,” according to its Twitter profile. The group’s latest tweets, which are from 2017, mainly criticized the Saudi-led military offensive against Iran-backed rebels in the Yemen civil war.

The group’s website currently cannot be accessed.

Since 2015, a Saudi-led coalition with U.S. support has aggressively fought Houthi rebels who briefly took control of the Yemeni government before being forced out, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. The worsening conflict has resulted in 100,000 deaths and 4 million displaced people.

The DOJ recently presented evidence to a grand jury supporting allegations that Bennett founded Yemen Crisis Watch to embarrass Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the WSJ reported. The Qatari government paid Bennett’s Washington D.C. lobbying firm, Avenue Strategies, nearly $3 million to help it develop a plan establishing closer ties between the U.S. and Qatar.

Avenue Strategies registered as a foreign agent to lobby on behalf of the Qatari government and multinational oil corporation Citgo, which is owned by the Venezuelan government, according to LegiStorm. Bennett founded the firm shortly after Trump was elected president in 2016 and shut it down after President Joe Biden was sworn in earlier this year, CNBC reported.

While Avenue Strategies registered as a foreign agent, Yemen Crisis Watch failed to register, lobbying filings reviewed by the WSJ showed.

Last month, Trump’s Presidential Inaugural Committee Chairman Thomas Barrack was arrested and charged with failing to register as a foreign agent on behalf of the UAE. Barrack allegedly helped shape certain Trump administration policies that affected the small Middle Eastern nation.

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