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More details of Saudi lobby plot in Washington uncovered

U.S. President Donald Trump looks over at Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammad bin Salman al-Saud as they line up for the family photo during the opening day of Argentina G20 Leaders' Summit 2018 at Costa Salguero on 30 November 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. [Daniel Jayo/Getty Images]
US President Donald Trump looks over at Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammad bin Salman al-Saud as they line up for the family photo during the opening day of Argentina G20 Leaders' Summit 2018 at Costa Salguero on 30 November 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. [Daniel Jayo/Getty Images]

New details of lobbying by the Saudi government in the US show that efforts to influence American lawmakers were more extensive than initially thought. In June it was discovered that Saudi Arabia paid $270,000 to house lobby groups in Donald Trump’s luxury hotel following his 2016 US presidential election victory. The payment was seen as further evidence of Trump’s collusion with foreign governments, which is suspected of influencing the results of the election.

Lobbyists representing the Saudi government reserved blocks of rooms at Trump’s Washington DC hotel paying for an estimated 500 nights, according to organisers of the trips and documents obtained by the Washington Post.

The lobbyists are reported to have reserved the rooms as part of an unorthodox drive to campaign against a law in Capitol Hill which was opposed by the Saudis. The luxury rooms were to be used by US military veterans as part of a free trip to Washington while lobbying Congress against the anti- Saudi bill.

Since then, reviews carried out by the Post of emails, agendas and disclosure forms from the Saudis’ lobbyists and interviews with two dozen veterans provide far more detail about the extent of the trips and the organisers’ interactions with veterans than have previously been reported.

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Some of the veterans who stayed at Trump’s hotel say they were kept in the dark about the Saudis’ role in the trips. Now, they wonder if they were used twice over: not just to deliver someone else’s message to Congress, but also to deliver business to the Trump Organisation, reported the Post.

One veteran mentioned that he found the entire lobby operation “puzzling”. He said the lobby group employed by the Saudis, Qorvis MSLGROUP, spent money like no veterans group he had ever worked with. There were private hotel rooms, open bars, free dinners.

Rooms costing as much as $768 a night were booked for the lobbyists.

Explaining the significance of these revelations the Post said that the transactions will become further ammunition for plaintiffs in two lawsuits alleging that Trump violated the Constitution’s foreign emoluments clause by taking payments from foreign governments.

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