How Turkey’s anti-Gulen lobbyist risks Washington’s ire with Venezuela contract

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Article Summary
Amsterdam and Partners has picked up the Maduro government account after Foley & Lardner dropped it amid political blowback.

Turkey’s most prominent paid advocate for the extradition of exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen has a new gig: Working to ease sanctions on the government of Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro.

Amsterdam and Partners will represent Attorney General Reinaldo Munoz Pedroza after Florida-based law firm Foley & Lardner dropped the Venezuelans last month amid a political backlash in Washington. The firm also transferred $1.05 million it had received from Venezuela to Amsterdam, according to a newly disclosed letter to the US Justice Department.

Foley & Lardner’s contract called for the firm to be paid a total of $12.5 million for help “delisting parties subject to US economic sanction due to their connections to the republic.” The firm was notably tasked with representing Munoz Pedroza in discussions with the Treasury Department’s sanctions office.

Amsterdam and Partners founder Robert Amsterdam has been paid $2.25 million by Turkey to warn US federal and state officials about the alleged threat posed by Gulen and his network of charter schools since 2015. Ankara blames Gulen for the failed 2016 coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

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The Venezuela contract now risks imperiling those efforts.

After writing a letter to his colleagues last month urging them to boycott Foley, Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., is now taking aim at Amsterdam. In an emailed statement to Al-Monitor, Scott’s office said he would “refuse to work with anyone in this firm, or anyone that contracts on this matter with this firm,” and urged “every one of his colleagues to stand with him against anyone who willingly represents a dangerous dictator.”

 

 

In response to Scott’s threat, Amsterdam told the Associated Press today that he would not “bend to the political dictates of Florida.”

Ironically, Amsterdam and Scott have a history dating back to Scott’s stint as governor of Florida. The firm disclosed three phone calls with the office of then-Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi in mid-2016 to discuss the Gulen schools in the state. Bondi is now a close ally of President Donald Trump.

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Found in: florida, sanctions, lobbying, fethullah gulen, recep tayyip erdogan, donald trump, venezuela

Aaron Schaffer writes about Middle East lobbying for Al-Monitor in Washington, DC. He co-writes and reports for Al-Monitor's bi-weekly lobbying newsletter. On Twitter: @aaronjschaffer

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