White House, Treasury Considering Actions to Protect American Business Interests in Angola

Angolan government soldiers stand guard at a roadblock that is marked with a human skull. After Angola gained independence from Portugal in 1975, civil war erupted between the ruling party, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA). …
Louise Gubb/CORBIS SABA/Corbis via Getty Images

The White House and Treasury Department are considering a number of actions to protect American business interests in Angola, multiple senior administration officials tell Breitbart News.

The news that President Donald Trump’s administration is considering various actions, including potentially economic sanctions, comes after an explosive Breitbart News investigation last month into how the Angolan government has retained a Washington, D.C., lobbying and law firm to represent its interests as it avoids paying debts it owes to U.S. companies. One such American company even had some of its assets seized at gunpoint in Angola by uniformed Angolan soldiers, and instead of paying the debts owed to these U.S. companies—in the tens of millions of dollars worth—the Angolan government has instead hired Squire Patton Boggs to represent its interests in Washington, spending millions on a contract with the firm that operates in the center of the swamp.

Last month, One America News Network (OANN), in a follow-up report to Breitbart News’ original investigation, reported that senior members of the administration including a number of White House officials were briefed on the matter.

Breitbart News can now confirm that the senior-most levels of the Trump administration are aware of the matter, and considering an array of actions in response to the Angolan government’s aggression against U.S. companies.

According to one senior administration official the Treasury Department has presented the White House with a number of options, including sanctions, to protect American business interests in Angola. With the administration’s renewed focus on US taxpayer funded foreign aid, Angola is squarely in the president’s sights, a Treasury official told Breitbart News.

Another senior White House official told Breitbart News in July that the White House has been made aware of what’s going on here and is considering various actions to get control of the situation in Angola.

“We’ve seen the reports and we were briefed on it today,” the White House official said in July. “This is a troubling situation and we’re tracking it.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is meeting on Monday with Angola’s Foreign Minister Manuel Augusto in Washington, D.C., according to several news reports. The State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Breitbart News on whether the Angolan government’s aggression against U.S. companies was a planned topic of discussion during Pompeo’s meetings with his Angolan counterpart.

The State Department’s inaction on this front has infuriated the U.S. companies involved. Arthur Schwartz, a GOP strategist with deep connections to the first family and White House who is advising the company whose assets were seized Africa Growth Corporation (AFGC), told Breitbart News that he is disappointed the State Department has not issued formal guidance to U.S. businesses operating in or considering operating in Angola that that government’s instability is a threat to their interests. But Schwartz said he is pleased that the White House and Treasury Department are considering stepping up in place of the State Department and taking action to protect American interests.

“We’re pleased to hear that the White House and Treasury Department are taking this matter seriously,” Schwartz said. “The State Department has been missing in action and we’re substantially disappointed by their inaction. Our chief of mission in Angola hasn’t bothered to issue a statement to warn American investors of the risks associated with deploying American capital to Angola — and that is flat out inexcusable.”

For Breitbart News’ original investigation published in early July, a State Department official did criticize Angola for its mishandling of this matter—and said that the State Department has broached the subject with senior Angolan officials including the African nation’s president.

“Promoting U.S. trade and investment is one of our highest foreign policy priorities in Africa, and the United States engages robustly to advance U.S. commercial interests and to support U.S. companies by providing a range of trade and investment support services,” the State Department official said. “American companies have been present in the Angolan market for more than 50 years and are among the largest foreign investors in Angola. Angola is the third-largest trading partner of the United States in sub-Saharan Africa with bilateral goods trade valued at 3.28 billion dollars in 2018. The U.S. Government, through Embassy officials and various high-level visitors, has raised the African Growth Corporation’s case at many levels with the Government of Angola, including directly with the President on more than one occasion. U.S. companies investing in Angola seek a level playing field, predictable policies, and a dispute resolution process that follows the rule of law. We continue to encourage the Government of Angola to increase transparency and fairness in its business environment. Due to ongoing litigation, we have no further comment.”

Robert Kapla, the Squire Patton Boggs attorney and former Bill Clinton White House official representing Angola, also confirmed that the firm is aware of the issue with AFGC and other American companies and is trying to smooth over U.S.-Angolan relations.

“We are aware of the dispute,” Kapla said. “One of our jobs is to work to foster a more productive business exchange between the US and Angola that promotes American interests, rather than ceding the economic and strategic playing field in the region to others.”

All of this comes as the White House considers a rescissions package of U.S. foreign aid sent through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to foreign countries like Angola. The U.S. government has, according to the USAID website, provided Angola with more than $76 million in 2018 and 2019 so far.

The White House package to roll back foreign aid would cut approximately $4 billion, including presumably a big chunk of cash flowing to Angola as well as a number of other nations, but House Democrats are trying to block the rescissions effort. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week wrote to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin urging him to oppose the rescissions package being pushed by the White House.

“I request that you work within the administration to stop this proposed rescission which GAO states is illegal, which violates the good faith of our budget negotiations, which important Republicans say is ill advised, and which overrides Congress’ most fundamental Constitutional power,” Pelosi wrote to Mnuchin, according to Politico.

UPDATE 6:53 p.m. ET

State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus sent out the following readout of Pompeo’s meeting with Angola’s foreign minister this evening, a statement that does not say if the secretary broached the subject of American companies getting ripped off in Angola with his Angolan counterpart:

Secretary Michael R. Pompeo met today with Angolan Foreign Minister Manuel Augusto in Washington, D.C.  The Secretary reaffirmed the strength of the U.S.-Angola strategic partnership and welcomed the bold reforms that President João Lourenço has undertaken since taking office in 2017.  The two conferred on ways to increase bilateral trade and investment and strengthen democratic institutions.

The State Department has not replied to a follow-up email request for comment on whether this topic came up, or if the State Department has decided to hand off handling of American companies’ interests in Angola to the White House and Treasury Department instead.

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