DC Powerhouse Cuts Ties With Saudi Office Involved in Khashoggi's Murder
Three years after Khashoggi's murder and an activist campaign, a powerhouse DC lobbying firm severed ties with the Saudi government office.
Three years after the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a powerhouse DC lobbying firm cut ties with the Saudi government that is held accountable for the crime.
The firm cut the ties amid pressures after advocacy campaigns in favor of Khashoggi were launched in order to shame the firm and one of its top lobbyists.
Squire Patton Boggs cut ties with Saudi office
On September 17, Squire Patton Boggs ended its representation of the Saudi Royal Court's "Center for Studies and Media Affairs." Despite its modest moniker, the agency served as a hub for cyber-attacks and more nefarious measures to stifle opponents backed by de facto Saudi ruler Mohammed bin Salman.
A Saudi team dispatched to Istanbul on October 2, 2018, under orders to kill or kidnap Khashoggi, “included officials who worked for, or were associated with, the Saudi Center for Studies and Media Affairs,” according to a February report by the White House Office of Director of National Intelligence.
Qahtani; the scapegoat
The report also named the office's former Director, Saud al-Qahtani, a top aide to MBS, as one of the people who "participated in, directed, or were somehow complicit in or accountable for the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi." (It's unclear whether Qahtani and the others listed “knew in advance that the operation would result in Khashoggi's death,” according to the article.) The study was labeled "negative, misleading, and unacceptable" by Saudi Arabia in February. In the wake of international anger over the murder, Qahtani was removed from his position.
Squire Patton Boggs' lobbyists dealt directly with Qahtani, according to foreign lobbying records from 2016. The firm's most recent lobbying interactions with Congress or executive branch officials on behalf of the Saudis were reported in 2017, just before Khashoggi's assassination.
The firm's "FARA account has been inactive since 2016, and we have not been paid any money for lobbying operations," a Squire Patton Boggs representative told MotherJones in March. Despite the fact that its lobbying operations had ended, Squire Patton Boggs continued to bill the Saudi office for legal services.
In the six months ending January 29, this year, the business reported receiving $157,300 in fees from the Saudis. Since then, it hasn't reported any further payments. Since signing a deal in 2016, the firm has reported receiving at least $2.7 million from the center.
Squire Patton Boggs did not give any information that explains why it ended its contract with the Saudi center. However, the move came in sync with the third anniversary of Khashoggi’s murder.
“We would never meet with such an appalling individual and are proud to continue to push for justice for Jamal Khashoggi and all victims of oppressive tyrants,” Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) said in a statement to MotherJones last week.
“To lobby for oppressors is to be an oppressor, and Mr. Newberry, and Squire Patton Boggs at large, would be wise to remember that", he added.
Nothing indicates that Squire Patton Boggs knew the extent of the center’s activities prior to Khashoggi’s murder. However, it did take three years and a pressure campaign for the firm to officially sever the relationship.