A man said to be one of the closest lobbyists in Washington to President Donald Trump has been fundraising for a company linked to a family close to Syria’s authoritarian leader Bashar al-Assad.
The Daily Beast on Wednesday reported that the lobbying firm owned by Trump lobbyist Brian Ballard took on Dubai-based trading company ASM International General Trading as a client as reported in last month’s federal filing period. In analyses of open source information, the Beast found that ASM “is affiliated with” a member of the Foz family, a clan of wealthy Syrian businessmen that are reportedly close to Assad.
When reached by the Beast for comment on the allegations, Ballard said that if ASM is indeed tied to the Syrian dictator the president has recently feuded with, he would fire them as clients.
“We’re going to do more due diligence,” the lobbyist told the Beast. “We’re not the CIA, but if it were to turn out that there was any connection at all, we would withdraw from our representation of the Dubai trading company.”
The report noted that Assad-linked businessman Samer Foz and his brother Amer left an online paper trial connecting them to the Dubai company represented by Ballard. The family has been scrutinized for their links to the Syrian leader, and in 2017 they purchased government-seized land in Damascus from Assad’s government.
As the report notes, a Politico profile published earlier this month called the Florida-based Ballard “The Most Powerful Lobbyist in Trump’s Washington” and claimed he is “closer to the president than perhaps any other lobbyist in town.”