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Former advisers to Trump, Ben Carson admit to unlawful lobbying on behalf of Qatar

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(NEW YORK) — A former adviser to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, along with a former aide to one-time presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson, have admitted to unlawfully lobbying on behalf of Qatar, the Justice Department announced Wednesday.

Barry Bennett and Douglas Watts admitted to lying to the Justice Department about their work running a pair of Washington, D.C.-based advocacy groups that advocated for Qatar’s interests, without properly registering as agents for the wealthy Middle East country.

The admissions are part of a deferred prosecution agreement that will dismiss charges against them after a year of compliance.

Both Bennett and Watts served as advisers to Carson’s 2016 presidential campaign before Bennett ultimately joined Trump’s campaign as an unpaid adviser.

After Trump’s election, court papers say Bennett established the consulting firm “Avenue Strategies” and tasked Watts with operating a separate company that promoted the interests of Bennett’s foreign clients.

The two established an organization called “Yemen Crisis Watch” that promoted a public relations campaign denigrating Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for their role in the conflict in Yemen — all on behalf of Bennett’s Qatari clients, according to the Justice Department.

Bennett has agreed to pay the U.S. a $100,000 fine as part of the deferred prosecution agreement, while Watts will pay a $25,000 fine.

The charges against them will be formally lifted after one year of compliance with the terms of the deal.

 

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