Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tried to influence former US President Donald Trump’s administration by reportedly paying lobbyists a whopping $30.5 million, according to the independent NGO “Open Secrets.”
A new report from the organization charges that the money was given during the four year span that Trump was in the White House, with the aim being to influence US policy in favor of Turkish interests.
According to the same report, the Department of Justice is allegedly investigating former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani for lobbying the president on behalf of Turkey.
Giuliani was one of the lawyers for Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian gold smuggler arrested in March of 2016 during a trip to Miami for his involvement in a tax evasion scheme in favor of the Iranian government.
Zarrab, who broke the US embargo on Iran with the help of the Erdogan government, later became a US government witness against Mehmet Hakan Atillam, a Halkbank executive involved in the tax evasion.
He was also arrested in 2017, convicted and imprisoned for almost two years before returning to Turkey.
Giuliani tried to have charges against Zarrab dropped in 2017, and at one point allegedly tried to mediate a prisoner exchange with Turkish President Erdogan.
Giuliani offered to drop all charges against Zarrab in exchange for the release of US Pastor Andrew Brunson from Turkish prison and his return to the United States.
The US lawyer had visited Ankara in 2017 where he met with the Turkish president, as was reported in an article in The New York Times four years ago.
According to a recently published report, the Turkish government paid the law firm Giuliani Greenberg Traurig LLP more than $5 million between 2016 and 2020.
Erdogan lobbies during Trump administration
Another close ally of Trump, Open Secrets reports, was Brian Ballard, a lobbyist who was a fundraiser for the Trump campaign.
Allegedly, the lobbyist was paid millions of dollars by the Turkish government over the same period. Ballard had lobbied on behalf of the Turkish government and HalkBank.
Open Secrets says that Ballard Partners received $1.1 million in 2017 and $750,000 in 2018 from Erdogan, while Halkbank paid the same company $2.25 million over the same period.
The NGO reports that the Ballard Partners lobby focused mainly on the Department of State and the Department of the Treasury during the Trump administration.
The company later severed ties with Halkbank, a day after a lawsuit against the bank for involvement in a massive money laundering scheme.
Mercury Public Affairs, a Washington-based consulting firm, is also one of Turkey’s top lobbyists in the US with close ties to Trump, the NGO report said.
Mercury defended Trump’s decisions in 2019 to withdraw troops from Syria and circulated a New York Times editorial by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu that described the US’ longtime Kurdish allies as terrorists.
TAİK, a business organization affiliated with the Turkish government, paid the company nearly $3.9 million in 2018. It also paid the same company $300,000 in 2019 and over $800,000 in 2020.
TAİK’s chairman, Turkish businessman Mehmet Ali Yalcindag, helped negotiate a deal for Trump’s properties in Turkey. Yalcindag went on to lobby the Trump administration on behalf of TAİK, the Open Secrets report charges.