President Donald Trump is being called out for appointing a Saudi lobbyist to the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships, according to a report from NBC News.
Longtime Republican lobbyist Richard Hohlt is a registered agent of Saudi Arabia who has been paid more than $400,000 since January to lobby on behalf of the Saudi Arabian foreign ministry, according to U.S. Department of Justice records reviewed by the Center for Public Integrity
A Trump donor, Hohlt said that he has never lobbied the Trump administration on behalf of Saudi Arabia, stating, “That is not my role.”
According to his disclosures with the Department of Justice, Hohlt registered to lobby for Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry in October and “provides them with advice on legislative and public affairs strategies.” As of April 30, he has had no direct contact with government officials on the Saudis’ behalf.
Hohlt explained that the Saudis hired him to offer advice on how the legislative process works, noting that he did directly contact some congressional offices in late May and June regarding an arms sale, and those contacts will be disclosed in his next report, as required.
Working for the Saudis without a formal contract, Hohlt assured reporters that if the Saudis asked him to lobby for something the Trump administration opposed, “I’d say I’m not going to work on it.”
“I will issue a lifetime ban against senior executive branch officials lobbying on behalf of a FOREIGN GOVERNMENT! #DrainTheSwamp,” Trump tweeted in October.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 19, 2016
Created by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships is a part-time advisory board, which is responsible for making final recommendations to the president of candidates for the prestigious White House fellowships.
Fellowship candidates are usually accomplished professionals who are typically given jobs in the White House and federal agencies. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas and CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta were all White House fellows.
Hohlt was one of 19 commissioners who met this month to interview the fellowship candidates.
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