An investigative report conducted by European watchdog Organized Crime & Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) found that Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government through Brian Ballard, President Donald Trump’s close confidant, have become one of the most powerful lobbyist in Washington.
The report revealed that a lunch meeting at Washington’s Watergate Hotel the day before Trump’s inauguration was held between Ballard and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavusoglu, as well as with Lev Parnas, a Florida businessman with connections to Ukraine, as well as Mübariz Mansimov, a Turkish-Azerbaijani shipping magnate now on trial in Turkey on terrorism charges.
“The meeting on January 19, 2017, which has never before been disclosed, was key to building a close relationship between the administrations of Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It has perhaps been the most successful foreign lobbying effort of the Trump presidency — no mean feat for an administration mired from the beginning in foreign influence scandals,” the report wrote.
“There was a lot of bodyguards, Turkish bodyguards,” Parnas recalled in an interview. “It was in a little restaurant. We went in. [Çavusoglu] was sitting in the restaurant with a couple of other Turkish dignitaries.”
“Mübariz introduced Brian Ballard as ‘Trump’s number one guy,’” Parnas said of the top Trump fundraiser from Florida, whom Politico dubbed “The Most Powerful Lobbyist in Trump’s Washington.”
“The warm relationship that followed would see Trump administration officials, and the president himself, make decisions that baffled advisers who believed they put Erdogan’s interests over America’s,” the report titled Behind Trump’s Turkish ‘Bromance’: Oligarchs, Crooks, and a Multi-Million-Dollar Lobbying Deal, said.
The report would then go onto explain in meticulous detail with supporting documents just how effective the lobbying was as multimillion dollar contracts were signed between those close with Trump and Erdogan.
“The upshot of Turkey’s outreach has been a Trump administration that has often been strikingly receptive to the interests of Erdogan’s authoritarian government,” the report said.
Carl Bernstein, a veteran journalist who helped break the Watergate scandal that brought down Richard Nixon, reported in June that Erdogan has enjoyed a level of telephone access to the U.S. president unrivaled by any other foreign leader.
“By far the greatest number of Trump’s telephone discussions with an individual head of state were with Erdogan, who sometimes phoned the White House at least twice a week and was put through directly to the President on standing orders from Trump,” Bernstein wrote.