How Will Giuliani Probe Impact Weah Administration’s Lobbying In Washington
Monrovia – As U.S. prosecutors mount a serious investigation into the possibility that the United States President Donald Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani broke laws meant to prevent covert foreign influence on the government, the fate of the George Weah-led government’s lobbying efforts in Washington appears to be in a lingering state of uncertainty.
Report by Rodney D. Sieh, [email protected]
In a bid to separate itself from the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf-led government, the Weah administration in April this year broke ranks with Sirleaf long-time Washington lobbyist Riva Levinson by hiring Jake Menges, a former operative for Pro-Trump Super Pac to lobby for the administration in Washington.
Menges worked for a super PAC backing President Donald Trump during the 2016 election is being paid US$25,000 a month, according to Politico which broke the story in April.
Ironically, Menges is a former aide to Giuliani who worked for Great America PAC in 2016 and is now a senior director at Greenberg Traurig, the law and lobbying firm.
At the time of his signing, Menges was expected to offer “business development and government affairs advice” to Liberia’s government, including “representation before the leaders of the House and Senate as well as representatives in the Department of Commerce, Transportation, Treasury, Agriculture and Energy,” according to a contract filed with the Justice Department.
It is unclear whether that contract is still valid as of this report.
Washington lobbying is an important tool for governments looking to gain access into the inner workings of Congress and explore aid possibilities.
The United States of America and Liberia have a longstanding historical relationship dating back to the founding of Liberia. At least eight of its former presidents were born in the United States of America. The capital, Monrovia, was named after the fifth U.S. President James Monroe and so are many of its cities or townships which are named after places in the United States. Moreover, the United States has been Liberia’s largest source of donor support over the years.
Levinson was instrumental for former President Sirleaf and is credited for being the engine behind ex-president Sirleaf’s international public relations, branding and global marketing propaganda.
Despite the inroads made with Congress during the Sirleaf era, however, it came with some criticisms. As an opposition, Weah’s Congress for Democratic Change took Sirleaf for spending in 2014, more than US$200 million in lobbying fees to foreign firms in the United States. Despite refuting those allegations and informing the House of Representatives that it was “preposterous” for anyone to believe that her government could spend such an amount, the lobbying tag left a stain on Sirleaf’s legacy.
Sirleaf did state that only Levinson’s KRL lobbied on behalf of Liberia from 2007 to 2013 and was paid a total of a little over $368,000.
Levinson found her way back into play when the Weah administration took over last January but was later dropped for Menges.
With Giuliani now on the hotseat, it is unclear who the administration would turn to.
Last Wednesday, two men who reportedly assisted Giuliani in his efforts to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden’s family were arrested and charged in connection with an alleged scheme to circumvent federal laws against foreign campaign donations.
Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, two Soviet-born businessmen based in Florida, were charged with four counts, including conspiracy to commit campaign finance fraud, false statements to the Federal Election Commission, and falsification of records. Both Parnas and Fruman have been tied to the work done by the president’s personal attorney, Giuliani, in Ukraine where Giuliani has had significant business interests.
The two men were arrested at Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia, just outside Washington, as they attempted to leave the country with “one-way tickets,” U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman said.
The two men made an initial appearance in federal court in Virginia shortly afterward where prosecutors expressed concern, they were a “flight risk.” A judge set bond at $1 million each and ordered them held in custody until all conditions were met, including surrendering their passports.
US investigators are also examining Mr. Giuliani’s efforts to undermine the American ambassador to Ukraine, Marie L. Yovanovitch and this week, Fiona Hill, who was until recently President Donald Trump’s top aide on Russia and Europe, plans to tell Congress that Rudy Giuliani and E.U. ambassador Gordon Sondland circumvented the National Security Council and the normal White House process to pursue a shadow policy on Ukraine, a person familiar with her expected testimony told NBC News.
Hill’s plan to testify is said to be crucial to impeachment inquiry against President Trump.
Giuliani himself told CNN Saturday that he is unaware that he is under investigation and has described the unraveling Ukraine scandal as a “political attack.”
The former Mayor of New York City said: “If it’s an appropriate law enforcement investigation, you try to keep it secret so the subjects aren’t alerted,” he added.
Despite the report, President Trump, has defended his lawyer with the White House saying Saturday that while Mr. Giuliani remains President Trump’s lawyer, he won’t be handling issues regarding Ukraine.
Mr. Giuliani’s ties to President Trump was previously hailed as a strategic move on the party of the Weah administration looking to improve its access to the Trump White House. His entanglement in President Trump’s impeachment saga at least for now raises some questions about the direction the administration in its second year could turn in hopes of improving access to the White House.