Former US ambassador pleads guilty to illegal lobbying and hiding gifts


The other lobbying effort Mr. Olson was involved in came after Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic ties with Qatar in 2017, blocking flights and ships from Qatar from using their airspace and shipping routes. The split became an international crisis. US military officials had to make an effort to mitigate the impact of the blockade, as the US military’s main air base in the Middle East is in Qatar.

Rex Tillerson, the first secretary of state under President Donald J. Trump, told US lawmakers in 2019, a year after he was forced to leave, that he was surprised by the diplomatic crisis. He said Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and White House adviser, had secretly discussed their plans to impose the blockade with Saudi and Emirati leaders during a 2017 visit to Riyadh.

Olson was paid to lobby officials in the Trump administration to encourage the US administration to lift the blockade and restore diplomatic relations between the Persian Gulf states, Justice Department prosecutors said in their file.

Qatar and the Emirates have poured money into Washington-based companies and research groups in recent years to try to influence US policy. Trump’s friend Thomas J. Barrack Jr. was arrested in July 2021 on charges of illegally lobbying for the Emirates. Elliott Broidy, a Trump ally and former Republican official, pushed for US policies favorable to the Emirates, while his private security firm took advantage of a $200 million contract with the country. And he was charged in 2020 with illegally lobbying for a Malaysian financier.

According to an official online biography, Mr. Olson received multiple awards during his more than three decades in the foreign service. He retired as a career minister, the second highest rank in the service.

Mr. Olson was also posted to Mexico, Uganda, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and Iraq.

When Mr. Olson retired in November 2016, Mr. Kerry said in a statement: “Rick is simply one of our most distinguished diplomats, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service who has pioneered our work in the Middle East , Africa and most recently in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

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