The 9/11 Families and Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism have sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions asking him to investigate the connection between over 100 Saudi lobbyists, U.S. veterans, and the Trump International hotel.
A group representing an estimated 6,500 families of 9/11 victims is calling on the Department of Justice to investigate a foreign influence campaign by Saudi Arabia which sought to convince veterans to fight against a recently passed law that allows for lawsuits against the Saudi kingdom in relation to the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. Yahoo! News reports that lawyers representing the 9/11 Families and Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism are accusing Saudi operatives of deceiving hundreds of veterans into lobbying against the bill by warning them that they may be susceptible to lawsuits in foreign countries for their role in military conflicts.
“In service of this dangerous effort to influence Congress into passing legislative text promoted by a foreign power, the Kingdom and its foreign agents have targeted U.S. veterans nationwide” and “deceived them into serving as unwitting advocates for the Saudi government,” the families’ letter reads.
The group of over 300 veterans were flown to Washington D.C. and treated to meals and discussion about the controversial Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), a recently passed law that allows victims of terrorism to file lawsuits against foreign nations. Veterans were not notified that the financiers of their trip were representatives of the Saudi Kingdom. The 9/11 families have fought for years to sue the Saudi Kingdom to reveal more details about the role the nation played in the 2001 terror attacks. The Saudi government has opposed JASTA since its inception, at one point threatening to liquidate millions of dollars in U.S. assets.
The letter accuses the Saudi Kingdom of using more than 100 foreign agents to “build a state of the art and nationwide lobbying and propaganda apparatus” to affect the U.S. legislative process.”According to media reports and records filed with the Department of Justice, the Kingdom has been paying at least $1.3 million per month to registered foreign agents, the majority of whom are registered solely to work on the Kingdom’s campaign to undermine JASTA,” the letter reads. The families are now demanding that the DOJ “commence an immediate national security investigation” to determine if anyone violated the statute known as the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, which requires full disclosure of foreign sponsored lobbying activities.
The families also reference internal Saudi lobbying memos and emails that show the Saudis are driving business to the Trump International Hotel, which is still owned by President Trump. Critics say the actions could be a violation of the “emoluments” clause of the U.S. Constitution. The clause states that government officials cannot receive payments or gifts “of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” Norm Eisen, a former White House ethics advisor under President Obama, told Yahoo! that if the allegations of Saudi funds paying for the stay at Trump Hotel, “that is a facial violation of the emoluments clause.”
Qorvis MSLGroup, the Washington, D.C., lobbying firm that represents the Saudis and paid for the veterans’ trip to the Trump Hotel, acknowledged the trip, but claimed, “The insinuation that this was going to influence the administration, by staying at the hotel, that’s just silly.” Qorvis said the idea that veterans were deceived “rings hollow.”
One of the email invitations from Shelbi Lewark, a Denver-based Saudi lobbyist, informs veterans that they do not need to know anything about JASTA to attend the trip. “It is all expenses paid (flight, dinner, hotel, transportation). They will be putting you in the Trump hotel, which is incredibly nice. … It’s an awesome trip and basically like a 5 star vacation.”
Yahoo! talked to two veterans who were upset by the role of the Saudi government in the trip. David Casler, a Marine who served during the Iraq War said Saudi lobbyists warned that foreign governments might “detain even our family members if we were flying through the Mideast.” When Casler realized the trip had been funded by the Saudis he said he was “livid.” Veteran Tim Cord said he would never have flown to the hotel if he had known. “The last thing I wanted was to be in the pocketbook of Saudi Arabia.”
The 9/11 families have also recently launched a lawsuit against the Saudi Kingdom. According to Pix 11, “the suit also produces evidence that officials in the Saudi embassy in Germany supported lead hijacker Mohamed Atta. It claims that a Saudi official was in the same hotel in Virginia with several hijackers the night before the attacks.” The lawsuit alleges that Saudi Royals were aware that funds from Saudi charities were being funneled to al-Qaeda. According to the lawyer behind the lawsuit, “there was a direct link between all the charities and Osama bin Laden and…they operated with the full knowledge of Saudi officials.”
The call for investigation is likely to raise even more questions regarding the Trump administration’s support for the Saudi Kingdom and their reluctance to investigate the ties between the nation and the 9/11 attacks. This comes after President Trump recently met with Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in a meeting that The Washington Post called a “reset” of relations between the United States and the Saudi Kingdom. The Trump Administration also recently has announced that they will approve the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia that were previously frozen in the final months of the Obama administration. These actions have caused concern for some of Trump’s supporters who worry that he is aligning with a nation who has a horrible track record on human rights and is responsible for one of the most extreme interpretations of Islam (Wahhabism).
Following the meeting between Trump and the Prince, the 9/11 Families sent a letter asking him to clarify his position on Saudi Arabia and their role in the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. “This letter is inspired by news reports that today you met with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman al Saud,” reads the letter from Terry Strada, a widow and the national chair for the 9/11 Families & Survivors.
Strada also wrote the new letter to the DOJ and was sure to note that President Trump called former President Obama’s veto of JASTA “shameful,” “a disgrace” and a “low point” of the Obama presidency. Strada and the 9/11 Families and Survivors are now counting on President Trump to support the investigation into the Saudi Kingdom. When asked over the phone whether she believed Trump’s increasingly close relationship with Saudi Arabia will affect his attitude towards the investigation, Strada said she has no reason to believe Trump will not keep his word.
Derrick Broze is an investigative journalist and liberty activist. He is the Lead Investigative Reporter for ActivistPost.com and the founder of the TheConsciousResistance.com. Follow him on Twitter. Derrick is the author of three books: The Conscious Resistance: Reflections on Anarchy and Spirituality and Finding Freedom in an Age of Confusion, Vol. 1 and Finding Freedom in an Age of Confusion, Vol. 2
Derrick is available for interviews. Please contact [email protected]
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