The prestigious Brookings Institution placed its president, retired four-star Marine Gen. John Allen, on administrative leave Wednesday amid a federal investigation into Allen’s foreign lobbying.
Brookings’ announcement came a day after The Associated Press reported on new court filings that show the FBI recently seized Allen’s electronic data as part of an investigation into his role in an illegal foreign lobbying campaign on behalf of the wealthy Persian Gulf nation of Qatar.
An FBI agent said in an affidavit in support of a search warrant there was “substantial evidence” that Allen had knowingly broken a foreign lobbying law. Allen had made false statements and withheld “incriminating” documents, the FBI agent’s affidavit said.
Allen has not been charged with any crimes and previously denied any wrongdoing.
Brookings told staffers Wednesday that the institute itself is not under federal investigation. The think tank’s executive vice president, Ted Gayer, will serve as acting president.
“Brookings has strong policies in place to prohibit donors from directing research activities,” the email said. “We have every confidence in the Brookings team’s ability to remain focused on delivering quality, independence, and impact.”
The federal investigation involving Allen has already ensnared Richard G. Olson, a former ambassador to the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan who pleaded guilty to federal charges last week, and Imaad Zuberi, a prolific political donor now serving a 12-year prison sentence on corruption charges. Several members of Congress have been interviewed as part of the investigation.
The new court filings detail Allen’s behind-the scenes efforts to help Qatar influence U.S. policy in 2017 when a diplomatic crisis erupted between the gas-rich Persian Gulf monarchy and its neighbors.
Allen’s alleged work for Qatar involved traveling to Qatar and met with the country’s top officials to offer them advice on how to influence U.S. policy, as well as promoting Qatar’s point of view to top White House officials and members of Congress, the FBI’s affidavit says.
Brookings is one of the most prestigious think thanks in the U.S.
Allen, who was a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution prior to becoming president in late 2017, used his official email account at the think tank for some of his Qatar-related communications, the affidavit says.
Qatar has long been one of Brookings’ biggest financial backers, though the institution says it has recently stopped taking Qatari funding.