Former Obama adviser admits to committing ethics and lobbying violations

Former advisers and those in President Barack Obama’s inner circle were rocked last week after a key figure from the Obama White House admitted that he was part of a secretive operation to influence the administration of former President Donald Trump.

According to The Washington Post, Richard G. Olson “admitted to lying in ethics paperwork and violating revolving-door laws by lobbying for Qatar within a year of retiring from federal service.”

Olson spent 34 years as a Foreign Service officer, and spent 2015 and 2016 as the Obama administration’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

While the two charges are technically misdemeanors under U.S. code, each charge carries with it the possibility of one year in prison.

The Post reported: “In plea papers, Olson acknowledged not disclosing as required in annual ethics forms that he had received a first-class airplane ticket from New Mexico to London and a stay in a luxury hotel in January 2015 worth about $20,000 from a Pakistani American businessman who was not identified by the government but whose description matches that of Zuberi.”

Imaad Zuberi, a U.S. businessman, was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2020 for tax evasion, campaign finance violations, and foreign influence-peddling.

Olson’s sentence could reportedly be mitigated with exculpatory evidence about retired four-star Marine Gen. John G. Allen, though a DOJ official noted: “Nothing related to General Allen has any bearing on the false statement the defendant made on an Office of Government Ethics form in May of 2016, and that was a full year before General Allen’s involvement in activities related to Qatar.”