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Mercury drops Turkey; Pakistan loses Trump campaign aide; Nigerian activists press Trump for sanctions: Monday’s Daily Digest

Mercury drops Turkey after coming under fire from Armenian diaspora

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan / Turkish Presidency Facebook page

Mercury Public Affairs ended its $1 million lobbying contract with the Turkish Embassy in Washington on Friday after coming under fire from the powerful Armenian-American diaspora.

The termination was first announced by the Western Region branch of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), which has leveraged Armenian-Americans’ political clout in California to target Turkey. The country is a key ally of Azerbaijan, which is fighting Armenia for control of the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave inside Azerbaijan.

Firms that represent Azerbaijan are also coming under fire.

The Armenian Assembly of America has launched its own campaign to pressure lobbying and public relations firms to “reject blood money” from the country. Representing the government of Azerbaijan are BGR Public Affairs, public relations firm Stellar Jay and BGR subcontractor Baker Donelson.

Read our story here.

Podcast: Jewish advocate Joel Rubin on changes in Washington and the Middle East

Fresh off his appointment as executive director of the American Jewish Congress, former State Department official turned Jewish outreach director for the Bernie Sanders campaign Joel Rubin joined our new podcast to share his thoughts on everything from pro-Israel advocacy in a changing Middle East to the future of lobbying.

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Joel Rubin

In a wide-ranging interview, Rubin gave due credit to the Donald Trump administration for helping achieve the “barrier-breaking” recognition of Israel by the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and now Sudan. And he shared some thoughts on why three-quarters of American Jews are still telling pollsters they plan to vote for Joe Biden.

A former Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs under President Barack Obama who previously worked for the State Department under President George W. Bush, Rubin also drew on his years of experience wearing several different hats to make the case for foreign influence campaigns as a way to help US policymakers hear from a broader set of actors than they might otherwise. But a breakdown in US policymaking, concentration of decision-making in the White House and illegal moves by a few bad actors have combined to turn much of the public against the practice.

Check out the podcast below and read more here.

New foreign lobbying filings (FARA)


Nigeria: Activists from 31 states and the district of Columbia have written to US President Donald Trump to “urgently request” his “vociferous condemnation” of last week’s massacre of protesters against police brutality at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos.

Nnamdi Kanu

The letter was spearheaded by Clement Okoro, the US national coordinator for the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), which advocates for independence for the predominantly Christian southeastern region. It was distributed by Mercury Public Affairs on behalf of the group’s international leader, exiled British-Nigerian activist Nnamdi Kanu.

The Oct. 22 letter states that sectarian violence in Nigeria diminished following Trump’s April 2018 meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the White House. It requests that the US president issue a “public statement strongly condemning the Nigerian government for its refusal to hold itself accountable.” It came the same day that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement that he “strongly condemns the use of excessive force by military forces who fired on unarmed demonstrators in Lagos” and that the State Department welcomes “an immediate investigation into any use of excessive force by members of the security forces.”

The letter to Trump follows a March letter form IPOB to UN Special Rapporteur for Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions Agnes Callamard that chronicled alleged human rights abuses against Biafrans for inclusion in her pending report on the situation in Africa’s most populous country.

The new letter goes on to ask Trump to “commit to enforcing punitive measures against the Buhari regime unless urgent reforms are made.” It also calls on Trump to direct the State Department to make a formal inquiry with the UN regarding the status of Callamard’s report (Pompeo is copied on the letter along with National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien and US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback).

Mercury has been a registered foreign agent for Kanu’s group since late September 2019. The contract is for $85,000 per month.


Pakistan: The Embassy of Pakistan in Washington has renewed its six-month contract with Houston-based Linden Government Solutions for another three months, until Jan. 15, 2021. The unusual contract is pro bono but allows Linden to seek payment from the diaspora community. Linden consultant Stuart Jolly, a former campaign aide to Donald Trump, stopped providing services to Pakistan on Oct. 16, leaving only three registered agents on the account: Linden President Stephen Payne, former Executive Vice President Joseph Fleming (now a consultant with the firm) and general counsel Brian Ettinger.

Also registered to lobby for the embassy is BLJ Worldwide of New York, which has represented the embassy for $50,000 per month since July 2019 but only registered with the US Department of Justice this August. Pakistan is also getting an assist from Turkey, which has hired Greenberg Traurig to help lift a congressional hold on the sale of attack helicopters to Islamabad, as Foreign Lobby Report first reported on July 28.

Middle East

Qatar: Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman partner Matthew Oresman has deregistered as a foreign agent for the Qatari Embassy in Washington. Joseph Jean, Aryeh Kaplan and Elizabeth Moeller remain listed on the account. Oresman, who leads the firm’s International Public Policy practice, is no longer registered to represent any foreign clients.

In other news

The United Arab Emirates’ English-language online newspaper The National has launched a US edition, becoming the latest foreign media outlet to put its own spin on political and other developments in Washington and across the country.

President Donald Trump tweeted his administration’s approval of a cross-border rail project between Alaska and Canada last month just hours after an advocate for the project attended a $100,000-a-plate campaign fundraiser, the Washington Post reports.