Brian Ballard is reportedly "closer to the president than perhaps any other lobbyist in town." So why is he taking cash from a member of Assad's inner circle? https://t.co/TVDsQIeduf— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) April 26, 2018
One of President Donald Trump’s closest fundraisers is reportedly working for a company affiliated with Syrian President Bashar al Assad.
Brian Ballard’s company, Ballard Partners, revealed in March that it was providing services to a Dubai-based trading company ASM International General Trading LLC. An investigation by the Daily Beast suggested that the U.A.E. trading company was in fact linked to the Foz family, a wealthy Syrian business family, which is reportedly part of Assad’s inner circle.
The Foz family has major business dealings in Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates. One of Foz’s companies, the Aman Group, negotiated grain deals with Assad-affiliated company, Hoboob, and made money out of the stark food shortage in Syria, brought about by the Syrian war.
The family also made a deal with the Syrian government, which had forcefully confiscated lands in Damascus and sold them to private builders. The Aman Group reportedly invested nearly $19 million for the venture.
An investigation into Ballard’s documents revealed he listed ASM International General Trading LLC as his client. That makes him indirectly linked to Samer Foz, the owner of the company, and directly to Amer Foz, his brother and business partner — and who also is the general manger of ASM International.
Both the Aman Gorup and ASM International are closely interrelated.
The disclosure came a month before Trump ordered airstrikes on Assad’s bases, after the Syrian regime allegedly killed dozens of people in Douma — a city in Eastern Ghouta controlled by rebels — by the use of chemical weapons.
When asked for his response, Ballard implied he was unaware of his client’s connection.
“We’re going to do more due diligence,” he said. “We’re not the CIA, but if it were to turn out that there was any connection at all, we would withdraw from our representation of the Dubai trading company.”
He then tried to dodge the question by telling his company also represents a “group of Syrian-American doctors.”
“We also represent a group of Syrian-American doctors and others who want a Syria free of Assad, which we fully support,” Ballard added, referring to an organization called Citizens for a Safe and Secure America. “We’ve lobbied for that and we’ve never lobbied anything but that, and never been asked to, out of fairness to the trading company.”
Ballard Partners also reportedly pushes for an end to the Syrian war and democratic elections in the country. It also aims “to encourage the return of Syrian refugees and displaced persons to their homes.”
According to Politico, Ballard is “the most powerful lobbyist in Trump’s Washington” and is “closer to the president than perhaps any other lobbyist in town.” When Trump was elected, Ballard came to Washington and raised millions for him. His firm also represents a host of foreign clients, including the government of Qatar, Turkey, Kosovo, the Maldives and the Dominican Republic.
Banner/Thumbnail credit: REUTERS/Aziz Taher