en-US Pro-Trump Radio Host Booked Qatari Government Guests After Getting Doha’s Cash A popular conservative talk radio host and former Trump campaign official aired interviews with Qatari government officials and broadcast segments promoting the government as his show was paid $180,000 by a Qatari state-funded nonprofit.Documents filed with the Justice Department late last week show that the Qatar-America Institute, a nonprofit financed by the country’s embassy in Washington and other government agencies in Doha, made the payment in May 2018 to Common Sense Media Holdings LLC, the company that produces conservative pundit John Fredericks’ radio show.The Institute reported in the same DOJ filing that it secured from Fredericks “access to key guests”; “regular show appearances by highly ranking Qatar officials, business leaders, experts;” the broadcast of “live shows every other month at QAI to promote Qatar#39;s progress” including in hosting the 2022 World Cup; and “regular discussions with U.S. based and overseas Qatar officials for background and education.”In an interview on Thursday, Fredericks described the arrangement as a standard advertiser relationship. The $180,000—itemized in QAI’s filing with DOJ as “Disbursements for expenses associated with shows, events, and discussions”—bought promotions through his radio show from October 2017 through October 2019, he said. Those promotions frequently included “live reads,” or paid advertising read on air by the host himself. “They were paying me to promote their various events, which I did in my libraries when I was on the show,” Fredericks said. “That was what the engagement was for.”Ex-Congressman’s Early Qatar Lobbying Activity Draws HeatAmid that advertising campaign, Fredericks also interviewed senior Qatari government officials including its ambassador to the U.S. and the head of the Qatar National Human Rights Committee. He said he never invited guests on the air as part of that paid promotion but that he booked individuals associated with QAI and the Qatari government because “they were interesting guests to have on.”“I think when people are looking for something, they accuse you of pay-to-play. Everybody accuses everybody of that,” Frederick said. “At the end of the day, I’m in business to sell advertising… The advertising has got to make sense, it’s got to have an audience, any guests that you have on have to be interesting, so if they were not interesting the relationship wouldn#39;t have continued.”The QAI did not respond to requests for comment. But the group’s filing under the Foreign Agents Registration Act indicates that its payment to Fredericks’ radio show effectively came from the Qatari embassy in Washington. Fredericks said his business relationship with QAI lasted for two years, and ended in October 2019. That same month, the Qatari embassy paid $180,000 to QAI, itemized in the latter’s FARA filing as a payment for “Radio Interviews with Qatari Experts.”The filing was submitted to DOJ last week after U.S. officials questioned whether QAI was acting as an unregistered foreign agent for the Gulf nation. “QAI did not believe [its] activities constituted political activities under FARA,” the group wrote in its filing. But “in response to a March 12, 2020, letter from the U.S. Department of Justice, QAI has made the decision to register.”Giuliani Pals Sprint Across D.C. to Lobby for QatarQAI is a charitable nonprofit based in Washington. Its website describes the group as “an independent 501(c)3 nonprofit research institute that hosts an open cultural space to convene, facilitate cross-cultural exchange programs, and develop educational research on the cultural and strategic ties between the United States and the State of Qatar.”The FARA filing it submitted last week disclosed more than $6.2 million in payments to QAI from Qatari government entities. The bulk of that financial commitment, about $5.6 million, has come from the country’s U.S. embassy. It also received $495,000 from the Qatar National Tourism Council, and $150,000 from the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, the Qatari government agency overseeing its hosting of the World Cup in 2022.Fredericks said he was not aware that QAI was funded by the Qatari government, but indicated that it made no difference to him where the money came from. “I had a good relationship with them. I enjoyed the people there, they were all very nice to work with,” he said. “Where their funding came from was really not relevant to me.”He insisted that he saw no obligation to disclose in interviews with Qatari or QAI officials that the organization was paying his radio show. “I just don’t think that’s relevant to the conversation,” he said. “I#39;m under no obligation to do that because I#39;m going about it the right way.”Fredericks, who calls himself the “Godzilla of Truth,” is syndicated across a handful of AM and FM stations in Virginia. He chaired the president’s 2016 campaign in the Commonwealth, and is on the reelection campaign’s advisory board, according to the bio on his website. Fredericks boasts that he’s interviewed Trump at least a dozen times. When the White House decided early in Trump’s tenure to beam talk radio hosts into the briefing room to ask questions of the White House press secretary, Fredericks was one of the radio talkers honored.His radio show generally broadcasts from Richmond, Virginia. But on occasion he’s set up shop at the offices of a lobbying firm run by a pair of former senior Trump campaign aides. The firm, Avenue Strategies, is also an advertiser on Fredericks’ show. And its clients happen to include the Qatari embassy.Fredericks’ interest in Qatari affairs appears to have picked up in early 2018. His Twitter account, where he promotes radio segments and opines on current events, mentioned it just once prior to then. But in February of that year, a few months after Fredericks said his advertising relationship with the QAI began, he interviewed the country’s ambassador to Washington. By March, Fredericks was broadcasting from Doha, where he interviewed multiple senior government officials about a Saudi-led blockade against Qatar. That blockade was ostensibly designed to punish Doha for its sponsorship of terrorism, and prompted a lobbying blitz in the U.S. by both sides designed to boost their standing in Washington and secure U.S. support.Fredericks continues to have strong opinions about that blockade. “That was ridiculous,” he told The Daily Beast. “I thought the embargo was a complete and utter disaster, still is...That’s my independent judgment based on my analysis. Probably one of the stupidest things that’s ever been done.”During his 2018 swing through Doha, Fredericks also sat down with the head of the Qatar Foundation, a state-funded nonprofit, to discuss “Qatar’s unique empowerment of women in the Gulf,” as he put it. Later that day, he followed up with his own testimonial: “Unbelievable and breathtaking progressive reforms,” he tweeted of Doha. “Women running Govt agencies, banks, businesses,etc. Maybe that’s why Saudis engineered embargo? Too much freedom for women in Qatar?”The QAI was pleased enough with Fredericks’ visit that it promoted his tour of the country on its own website. Its post went up on April 19, 2018. Less than two weeks later, QAI reported writing Fredericks’ company that $180,000 check.In the ensuing months, Fredericks hosted more interviews with Qatar’s ambassador to the U.S. and with former U.S. diplomats who served in the Gulf nation. One of those former diplomats was Charles Untermeyer, the former U.S. ambassador to Doha, who made at least three appearances on Fredericks’ radio show in 2019.Untermeyer also happens to be the founder and chairman of the QAI. It appears his most recent appearance on Fredericks’ show came on September 19, 2019. That was about a month before Fredericks says his advertiser relationship with the QAI ended.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more. Thu, 04 2020 23:01:28 GMT Tiananmen Massacre Survivor: China an #039;Existential Threat#039; to the World Beijing's decision to hide the severity of the novel coronavirus during the early stages of the outbreak, a move that allowed the disease to spill over to other countries, has rendered communist China an "existential threat" to the globe, a survivor of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre proclaimed on Wednesday. Fri, 05 2020 00:55:21 GMT Airbnb might not get much of a bounce from the rebound in short-term rentals Airbnb may not get a big benefit from the recent rebound in short-term rental bookings. Much of the pick-up in activity is coming from vacation spots such as beaches and parks within driving distance of major cities. Airbnb rival VRBO tends to dominate the market for accommodations in those areas, Scott Shatford, the CEO of industry research firm AirDNA, told Business Insider. Longer term, Airbnb could still do well, though, in part because it enacted a much more guest-friendly stance during the coronavirus crisis than VRBO, Shatford said. Click here for more BI Prime stories. After being crushed by the coronavirus crisis, the short-term rental market is bouncing back. But that's not necessarily good news for market leader Airbnb. Much of the pick-up in activity is coming from vacation destinations within driving distances of major cities, Scott Shatford, CEO of AirDNA, an industry research firm, told Business Insider. Those kinds of areas have long been a stronghold of VRBO, Airbnb's chief rival, he said. By contrast, Airbnb's stronghold is in cities, which are not seeing nearly as much of an uptick in reservations, he said. "It's just in the nature of who's booking travel," said Shatford. "I think VRBO, through this summer," he continued, "will perform better than Airbnb." With states and countries lifting their coronavirus-related restrictions, people around the world are beginning to travel more and plan for future vacations. AirDNA reported last week that consumers worldwide made 2.1 million short-term rental bookings the week of May 18, which was up 127% from the nadir when the coronavirus crisis was raging at its worst. Some countries, including the United States, have even started to see booking reach levels that exceed what they were prior to the onset of the pandemic. But the rebound is uneven. Bookings are skyrocketing in places such as Big Bear Lake, outside of Los Angeles; South Padre Island, Texas; and North Carolina's Carolina Beach. In each of those destinations, reservations were up more than 1,000% from the low point in April. Big cities are seeing only a limited rebound By contrast, big cities are seeing much more modest increases in bookings. New York was up only 40% from the April bottom. And San Francisco was up by less than 50%. And that was before widespread protests erupted im cities across the country, often resulting in government-imposed curfews. The week of April 5, New York City saw 2,812 short-term rental bookings, according to AirDNA. That was more than three times the numbers seen in Gulf Shores, Alabama, that week, and more than five times that in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. But the week of May 18, both of those picturesque places saw at least 800 more bookings than the Big Apple did. People who are going to those vacation destinations are typically older and looking for bigger places to rent, such as four-bedroom houses, Shatford said. Those kinds of spaces are right in VRBO's wheelhouse, but not in Airbnb's, he said. "VRBO's always been this traditional leisure market," Shatford said. He continued: "That's where they started and that's where they still have ... dominance, in terms of that supply. And obviously, that supply has done better. That's what people are choosing." Airbnb has already taken a big hit to its business. Company CEO Brian Chesky said last month he expects revenue to be down more than 50% from last year due to the pandemic. In response to its troubles, the company cut 25% of its workforce, laid off most of its contractors, and has slashed other expenses. It has also raised $2 billion in debt since the crisis began. Airbnb's prospects are likely brighter in the longer term, Shatford said. Airbnb will likely benefit from being guest-friendly During and in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, people have been leaving big cities for health or safety reasons. There are indications that housing demand is falling in places like New York and San Francisco. While people may again resume traveling to such cities, they're likely to want to stay on the fringes of those places, outside of their dense urban cores, Shatford said. It's in such places where hotels can be hard to come by that short-term rental accommodations of flourished, he said. Meanwhile, the differing ways Airbnb and VRBO handled cancellations during the coronavirus crisis is likely to benefit the former, Shatford said. Both companies allow the property managers who use their services to set their own cancellation terms. But during the pandemic, Airbnb has allowed many travelers to cancel their bookings and get a full refund, regardless of what the host's policies would have provided. VRBO, by contrast, has stuck by its hosts, many of whom have refused to offer full refunds. Some hosts have threatened to abandon Airbnb because it overrode their cancellation policies. But that same move likely earned the company the loyalty of travelers, Shatford said. "I'm still am of this belief ... that guest loyalty will win this in the long run," he said. Got a tip about Airbnb? Contact Troy Wolverton via email at, message him on Twitter @troywolv, or send him a secure message through Signal at 415.515.5594. You can also contact Business Insider securely via SecureDrop. Read more about Airbnb: Vacation rentals around the world have jumped 127% since early April in a sign that people are slowly starting to travel again Airbnb just cut nearly 2,000 jobs, but the layoffs aren't even close to offsetting a $2.4 billion revenue shortfall this year Airbnb is cutting 25% of staff — 1,900 jobs — after its business has been slammed by the coronavirus crisis Airbnb was supposed to ignite a boom of tech startup direct listings, but then the coronavirus killed the IPO market SEE ALSO: Airbnb says it's going to focus on longer-term stays, but analysts worry its short-term rental roots will make it hard to grab a piece of the $18 billion market Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Here's what it's like to travel during the coronavirus outbreak Fri, 05 2020 00:12:00 GMT Steph Curry, Aaron Rogers, Tony Romo to Play in American Century Championship Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and current NFL on CBS color commentator Tony Romo will look to win his third straight American Century Celebrity Golf Championship title against ... Fri, 05 2020 00:51:15 GMT How Golf Legend Greg Norman Built A Mega Brand—And Eliminated His 27 Handicap The Shark says wisdom of Jack Nicklaus and Jack Welch were huge. Thu, 04 2020 17:40:52 GMT Chip-Down Is A Great Yard Game For Golf Nuts The ultimate yard game? Thu, 04 2020 17:43:47 GMT Tropical Storm Cristobal drenches Mexico, Gulf Coast impacts likely to arrive by Sunday The third named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season weakened overnight but is still bringing the threat of heavy rainfall and devastating flooding on Thursday for parts of southern Mexico and Central America. Thu, 04 2020 12:51:16 GMT Bill Barr Takes Charge of Trump’s Crackdown as the Military Tries to Back Away As President Trump continues to try and drum up support for his call for states to “dominate” protesters and beef up police presence against them, Attorney General Bill Barr and a team of senior Justice Department officials have quietly taken the lead on disrupting the protests and going after the petty criminals who may be using the demonstrations as cover. It’s been a controversial move, even within Barr’s own department. One federal prosecutor called Barr’s most high-profile effort to quell the unrest “politically-charged [and] bogus.” A senior law enforcement official called it “a political ploy to make being anti-Trump look like terrorism.”   In the early hours following clashes between protesters and police in Minneapolis on May 26, Barr and senior officials at DOJ began holding meetings and calls, strategizing ways to clamp down, two senior officials in the department told The Daily Beast. Scenes of looters ransacking local shops and vandalizing police buildings unnerved Barr, those officials said, and the attorney general directed his team to find a framework to identify and arrest those individuals and  charge them with federal crimes. The idea was to try and take control of the administration’s response to the protests by relying on the FBI’s regional counterterrorism hubs to share information with local law enforcement about, in Barr’s own words, “extremists.” It wasn’t immediately clear to senior justice officials working with Barr how the department would go about implementing an initiative focused on arresting and charging individuals with federal crimes on a nationwide scale. The fear was states would push back on Barr’s intervention, just as they had with Trump demanding they accept assistance from the National Guard. A third justice official said there was additional concern that the plan would require rigorous investigative and surveillance efforts that could take away from other ongoing law enforcement matters.That’s when Barr turned to an existing counterterrorism network—Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs)— led by the FBI that unite federal, state and local law enforcement to monitor and pursue suspected terrorists. A few days later, Barr communicated his plans to the nation’s governors. “The construction we are going to use is the JTTF. It’s a tried and true system. It worked for domestic homegrown terrorists. We’re going to apply that model,” Barr said on the call. “It already integrates your state and local people. It’s intelligence driven. We want to lean forward and charge … anyone who violates a federal law in connection with this rioting.”President Trump technically ran the call with the governors, directing them to punch “hashtag two” to get on the line to ask questions. But the president repeatedly handed the reins over to Barr. “We will activate Bill Barr and we will activate him strongly,” Trump said. Barr, under questioning from Gov. Janet Mills of Maine, laid out his thinking on why states needed to “dominate” the streets. “We need to have people in control of the streets so we can go out and work with law enforcement ... identify these people in the crowd, pull them out and prosecute them,” Barr said.In the past week, federal officers have charged three individuals in New York and two in Minnesota for alleged involvement in Molotov cocktail attacks on municipal properties. And on Monday, following the president’s remarks in Lafayette Park in which he threatened states with sending in active military personnel to their cities, arrest numbers more than doubled in DC and New York City.  ‘Uncomfortable Mission’: Pentagon Tries to Retreat From Trump’s Call to ‘Dominate’ ProtestsThe attorney general’s efforts to crack down on individuals involved in the protests shows the extent to which the Department of Justice is playing a leading role in the administration’s response to the chaos that has ensnared cities across the U.S. Meanwhile, Trump this week sheltered in a bunker as protests grew in Washington and posed for a photo op, with a bible, in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church, and said he would take any means necessary to stop “acts of domestic terror.” As the Pentagon has moved to distance itself from Trump’s rhetoric about militarizing American cities, the Department of Justice appears to be using a different tactic: aggression. The Department of Justice did not respond to a request for comment on this story.Barr’s enthusiasm for the crackdown is conspicuous. It stands in marked contrast to the Pentagon, which is reeling from its leadership’s decision to appear beside Trump after park police, supported by National Guardsmen, violently cleared Lafayette Park from peaceful protesters so the president could stage a photo op – reportedly Barr’s idea. Two days later, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, under withering criticism for his tacit endorsement of the action, publicly rejected Trump’s threat to use the active-duty military against the protesters, something that has jeopardized Esper’s standing in the administration. To those close to Trump, it is no surprise that the president has given Barr such a broad professional mandate in imposing their particular mold of law and order as the civil unrest has spread. “[For days], the president has [bragged to officials] how ‘tough’ the attorney general is, and that if anyone can restore order, it’s this guy,” according to a senior administration official. “The president sees Barr as [the] ‘bad cop’ he can unleash if states and cities don’t get their act together.”A senior official at the Department of Justice said there is a small team working to track the results of the attorney general’s directive that more resources be put toward investigating and prosecuting “agitators.” In Washington, there have been a little over 100 arrests that went to the local U.S. attorneys office. Of those arrested, 75 were charged but only one person was charged with a federal crime for breaking into a bank, according to a senior justice official. There are eight federal charges pending in the city, that person said. None of the defendants were charged with rioting.According to multiple current and former Justice Department and law enforcement officials, Barr is misusing the Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs) in support of President Trump’s insistence that antifascists are “terrorists” exploiting the nationwide protests. Antifa is not an organization, nor is there a domestic terrorism statute for designating them terrorists. The early federal charges emerging from Barr’s crackdown concern crimes like arson, not terrorism-related offenses. And in Nevada, three men with ties to a right-wing extremists advocating for the overthrow of the U.S. government were arrested on terrorism-related charges for a conspiracy to carry out acts of violence during protests in Las Vegas. Veteran law enforcement officials point to the gulf between Barr’s treatment of the left-wing protesters and far more violent right-wing elements whom the Justice Department has not prioritized. Barr Promises to Sic Terror-Hunters on ProtestersA federal prosecutor who requested anonymity said the use of the JTTF against the protests revealed Barr’s double standards, as right-wing violence – aimed unlike the protesters against people, rather than property – has yet to register as a priority. “We didn’t hear anything about the Justice Department calling on JTTFs after, say, a manifesto-writing lunatic murdered people in Wal-Mart, or another political-slogan-spouting crazy sent bombs to Soros’ house in New York,” the prosecutor said. The prosecutor considered Barr’s behavior over the protests to be “a new low” for the attorney general. “He attributes all the violent, destructive activity in the protests to ‘left-wing antifa’ elements. He has no evidence to back that up whatsoever,” the prosecutor said. Another senior law enforcement official said that using the JTTF against the protesters is “a political ploy to make being anti-Trump look like terrorism.” Two officials familiar with JTTF operations described cases against protesters being turned over from counterterrorism-focused participants to federal prosecutors and FBI special agents to determine what activity violates existing federal statutes.The FBI portrayed its use of the JTTFs in relation to the protests as a repurposing of a network it already had in place to connect its agents to local police in the cities where the protests are occurring, rather than an indication that “antifa” or other protesters represented a terrorist threat. “JTTFs are being utilized as an existing partnership of federal, state, and local law enforcement that is already in place. Their focus is on identifying and disrupting criminal activity and as such, the statutory limitations around domestic use of national security intelligence authorities apply,” the FBI told the Daily Beast in a statement. Still, federal prosecutors and JTTF veterans expressed concern about the propriety of aiming a tool for counterterrorism at protesters, particularly when the FBI concedes that the JTTF focus is on criminal activity rather than terrorism.  In other words, the JTTFs are a mechanism of convenience rather than an indication of any terrorist element within the protests: “If we were invaded by Mars, we’d use JTTFs, an existing partnership, for an anti-Martian task force,” said the federal prosecutor. The greater issue, the prosecutor continued, is a “politically-charged, bogus attempt to attribute all this to left-wing activity and the use of inappropriate means to respond. Civil society leaders everywhere are able to draw the distinction between peaceful protesters, property crimes and people throwing bricks at cops, and Barr is unable to make this distinction.”Mystery Officers Patrolling D.C. Streets Are From Federal PrisonsBarr’s focus is also conspicuous for overlooking the most violent element in the protests: the police, whose slaying of George Floyd – and thousands of African-American men, women and children before him – sparked the nationwide protests. In New York City, videos surfaced on social media showing police officers plowing through protesters with their cars. In Atlanta, officers dragged college students from a car and shot them with stun guns. In Manhattan on Sunday night, a Daily Beast reporter saw at least three police officers take nightsticks to a protester who was already on the ground after he ran from an officer who had unholstered his gun. By contrast, dozens of individuals involved in protests throughout the country—many of them white—have smashed storefronts, stealing clothes and other merchandise, and some set fire to police cars. The Trump administration actively encourages police violence on people, while describing as “terrorism” crimes that are largely against property. Still, Barr is not without his high-profile supporters. Ever since his handling of the unveiling of the Mueller report, Barr has become not just a favorite of the president’s, but a folk hero throughout Trumpworld.“Bill has tremendous insight and knowledge both of the applicable laws and the conditional implications of the current situation. The president made a wise choice in nominating Bill Barr to be attorney general, and he has served the country well and will continue to do so [in this crisis],” said Jay Sekulow, a Trump attorney who has known Barr for years. “He’s doing a phenomenal job.”—with additional reporting by Asawin SuebsaengRead more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more. Wed, 03 2020 23:39:37 GMT Gulf Of Mexico Oil Outposts Brace For 65Mph Gusts From Tropical Storm Cristobal Storm would make U.S. landfall somewhere between Houston, Texas and Pensacola, Florida, as it breezes past offshore rigs in its path. Wed, 03 2020 18:24:57 GMT Travel Isn’t Back, But Golf Is, And That’s Bullish For This Respected Brand As the world yearns to go back outside, golfers may return to courses en masse. This stock stands to benefit Wed, 03 2020 11:30:00 GMT