A trio of House Republicans is investigating whether the Biden administration improperly steered funds destined to compensate victims of terrorism to a former Biden official’s own post-employment coffers.
In February, President Joe Biden issued an executive order allocating $3.5 billion in seized assets from the Afghanistan Central Bank be held within the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, as opposed to the U.S. Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund (VSST Fund) where such funds might typically be held. The fund, established by Congress in 2015, sets money aside to compensate victims who suffered from entities designated by the United States as state sponsors of terrorism, such as the Taliban.
“To the extent that this plan is legal,” lawmakers wrote of Biden’s directive in a letter to the White House, “it deliberately avoids Congressionally-established mechanisms for the compensation of victims of terrorism to benefit a set of politically-connected plaintiffs and trial lawyers at the expense of other victims of terrorism.”
One lawyer who stands to “reap a windfall in attorney’s fees” by representing clients with claims against the Taliban known as the “Havlish Plaintiffs” was intimately involved in White House policy on Afghanistan after the botched American withdrawal in August.
Lee Wolosky, who also represented Russia hoaxer Fiona Hill, was hired by the West Wing in September and worked “with the National Security Council (NSC) and other administration officials on resettlement, as well as other issues related to the U.S. drawdown in Afghanistan,” according to Axios. The NSC also led the way on how to handle the $3.5 billion worth of Afghanistan assets circumventing the compensatory process created by Congress. Wolosky now works at Jenner & Block representing the Havlish Plaintiffs to a handsome payout.
“The White House has denied that Wolosky was involved in the Afghanistan Central Bank assets deliberations,” acknowledged Reps. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, Mike Johnson, R-La., and Nicole Malliotakis, R-N.Y., in their joint letter sent Tuesday. “However, the White House’s apparent desire to avoid the established VSST Fund process, the steering of assets to plaintiffs represented by a recently-departed White House official, and the sheer amount of money at issue raise considerable questions.”
The trio of lawmakers gave White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain an April 19 deadline to provide “all documents and communications” related to deliberations surrounding the distribution of the bank’s seized assets and Wolosky’s tenure.