The president of the Brookings Institution resigned Sunday amid a federal investigation into whether he illegally lobbied on behalf of Qatar, a wealthy Persian Gulf nation.
Retired Gen. John Allen wrote in a letter to the study group that he was leaving the post with a “heavy heart,” though he gave no direct explanation.
“I know it is in the best interest of all concerned at this time,” Allen said in his letter.
Allen, a retired four-star general in the Marine Corps who led U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, made his announcement less than a week after The Associated Press was first to report on the filing. new court documents showing the FBI had seized Allen’s electronic data as part of the probe into lobbying activities.
Allen has not been charged with any crime and through a spokesman has denied having committed any wrongdoing.
Brookings, which had placed Allen on leave a day after the Associated Press’s initial content was published, issued a statement thanking Allen for leading the study group during the coronavirus pandemic and for his various contributions. The institution said it would report on the search for a new president.
New documents filed with the court detail Allen’s behind-the-scenes actions to help Qatar influence U.S. politics in June 2017, when a diplomatic crisis erupted between the U.S. monarchy and its neighbors.
An FBI agent said in an affidavit in support of a search warrant that there was “substantial evidence” that Allen had knowingly violated a pro-alien lobbying law, and had made false statements and withheld “incriminating documents.” .
Allen’s alleged lobbying work involved him traveling to Qatar and meeting with senior Qatari officials to advise them on how to influence US policy, as well as promoting US views to top White House officials and members of the White House. of Congress, the FBI affidavit states.
The federal investigation into Allen has already implicated Richard G. Olson, a former ambassador to the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan, who pleaded guilty this month to federal charges, and Imaad Zuberi, a major political donor serving a 12-year sentence on charges of corruption. Several members of Congress have also been interviewed.
Brookings, one of the most prestigious think tanks in the United States, had initially hired Allen as a senior fellow before appointing him president in late 2017 at a salary of more than $1 million a year, according to recent tax records.
“The integrity and objectivity of Brookings Scholarships are the institution’s greatest asset, and Brookings seeks to uphold its high ethical standards in all its activities,” the think tank said in its statement on Sunday.
Qatar has long been a major source of financial support for Brookings, although Allen had decided in 2019 to stop accepting new donations from the country.
Qatari authorities have not responded to requests for comment on the Allen investigation.
Suderman reported from Richmond, Virginia, and Mustian from New Orleans.