The deal with the former secretary of transportation says he “was in serious financial difficulty” when he took out the loan and used the money for home repairs.
The legal review of LaHood, a former Republican congressman from Illinois who served in President Barack Obama’s cabinet from 2009 to 2013, appears to have emerged from a Justice Department investigation into the Nigerian-Lebanese billionaire who was the ultimate source of the loan, Gilbert Chagoury.
The Justice Department also announced Wednesday that Chagoury reached a resolution similar in 2019 to an investigation into his involvement in foreign donations to US political campaigns. Chagoury admitted having paid $ 180,000 to individuals in the United States to fund donations to political candidates.
While Chagoury became the center of media attention and GOP attacks because he donated between $ 1-5 million to the Clinton Foundation and had contact with the inner circle of Hillary Clinton At the State Department, all 180,000 prosecutors contend that Chagoury led in US presidential campaigns appears to have gone to Republican candidates.
Campaigns and candidates are not identified by name in documents released Tuesday, but POLITICO analysis shows individual donations match $ 100,000 in gifts to a 2012 Mitt Romney presidential campaign fund, $ 10,000 to campaign 2014 from former Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.), $ 30,000 to the 2014 campaign of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) And $ 30,200 to the 2016 campaign of Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) .
The documents do not allege that the campaigns or the candidates knew the donations came from Chagoury, who – as a foreigner without legal residence in the United States – is prohibited from donating to the American campaigns.
Chagoury, who lives in Paris, paid a fine of $ 1.8 million and concluded a deferred prosecution agreement who kept criminal charges at bay. Although he accepted the facts of the deal regarding his donations, he did not admit to breaking the law. The deal appears to have been structured to allow Chagoury to keep certain legal defenses open.
Two Chagoury associates have also entered into deferred prosecution agreements with US prosecutors. It’s unclear why the cases were kept secret for so long, but one of the aid deals was not signed until earlier this month.
Published reports and internal State Department cables obtained by WikiLeaks have linked Chagoury to the Hezbollah group in Lebanon – which is part of the government there but which the United States considers a terrorist organization. Chagoury has denied any wrongdoing or connection to terrorism, but it sometimes appears he landed on a US no-fly list.
In 2010, the Ministry of Homeland Security sent Chagoury a written apology about an incident that year where he and his family were delayed as they attempted to travel in a private jet from Teterboro, NJ, to Paris.
In the fall of 2016, Chagoury sued the US government. He accused various government agencies of violating his privacy and due process rights by disclosing derogatory and false information about him to the media. In July 2017, both parties agreed to dismiss the lawsuit, with the US government stating that Chagoury was never on a specific sanctions list and that certain types of personal information disclosure violate laws and US agency policies.
A press release issued on Wednesday by the Ministry of Justice suggests that Chagoury has provided invaluable assistance to the US government, but does not give details.
“Federal prosecutors reached the postponement of prosecution agreement taking into account, among other factors, Chagoury’s unique assistance to the US government, his payment of a fine, Chagoury’s acceptance of responsibility for his actions and his residence outside the United States, “the statement said.
Chagoury’s lawyers did not respond to requests for comment. LaHood did not respond to emails seeking comment.
The agreements reached with the two men contain provisions that could allow them to be prosecuted if they themselves or their representatives publicly dispute any of the facts on which they have agreed in the judicial agreements.