Center for American Progress Fires Staffers for Leaks About UAE Influence

UAE to try British student on spying charges: reports
AFP/File NASSER YOUNES

The Intercept reported on Wednesday that the Center for American Progress (CAP) — a left-wing think tank founded by Clinton and Obama administration alumnus John Podesta in 2003 — fired two staffers suspected of leaking information related to the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) influence over CAP’s operations.

The UAE is one of CAP’s primary donors, with CAP listing the Gulf state’s embassy as having donated between $500,000 and $999,999 in 2017.

CAP’s internal investigation of leaks followed The Intercept’s publication of a report in December examining left-wing groups’ — including CAP’s — responses to legislative efforts to end U.S. military support for Saudi Arabia in Yemen’s ongoing civil war.

The two fired staffers were reportedly investigated by CAP for leaking an internal email exchange to The Intercept. The email exchange related how CAP would publicly respond to the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi Arabian officials in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

With the UAE as a close ally of Saudi Arabia, CAP experienced perplexity in considering its response to Khashoggi’s death at the hands of Saudi Arabian officials.

The Intercept explains some of the UAE-CAP financial relationship:

[Brian Katulis, CAP’s Gulf expert] is close with the UAE’s ambassador in Washington, Yousef Al Otaiba, who is the go-between for Emirati money flowing into Washington. Otaiba also played a key role in elevating Mohammed bin Salman to his position as crown prince of Saudi Arabia, using his considerable influence within the American foreign policy establishment to make the case for bin Salman’s moderation and reform-minded approach to government.

Katulis is CAP’s link to Otaiba. As The Intercept has previously reported, Katulis worked with the diplomat to help organize UAE-sponsored trips to the wealthy Gulf country for American think tank experts, according to emails purloined from Otaiba’s Hotmail inbox. They were released to the media by a group called Global Leaks amid a row between the UAE and its neighborhood rival Qatar. According to the emails, Katulis has also given Otaiba advice on how to lobby the Trump administration on issues relating to Egypt.

The Intercept reported, “CAP’s acceptance of UAE money has also been controversial within the organization for some time.”

The Intercept denies that either of the two fired staffers was its sources for previous reports on CAP’s internal goings-on.

Follow Robert Kraychik on Twitter.

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