By: Jack Noland
Paperwork filed this week indicates that current Donald Trump campaign senior adviser and former Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), now of lobbying firm Squire Patton Boggs, has become a registered lobbyist for the High Negotiations Committee of the Syrian Opposition.
The committee leads a wide coalition of groups opposed to President Bashar al-Assad's regime, but excludes two of the region's most prominent militant groups, the Islamic State and al-Qaeda's al-Nusra Front. Last month, the High Negotiations Committee, which receives Saudi support, negotiated the recent short-lived ceasefire with Assad's forces.
While the registration itself is hardly groundbreaking given the revolving door between Congress and K Street, Kingston's position as a Trump surrogate is noteworthy, if only because the Republican nominee's policy on Syria has been so sparse thus far. Trump has thus far focused his Syrian strategy on bombing ISIS, though his partner on the presidential ticket, Gov. Mike Pence, articulated a need to "be prepared to use military force to strike the military forces of the Assad regime" during Tuesday's vice presidential debate. "Provocations by Russia need to be met with American strength," he said.
Russia, which has aligned itself with Assad's regime, recently stepped up its joint bombing campaign on opposition-held areas, including Aleppo, leading the United States to withdraw from tortured peace negotiations. Given Trump's praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin, Pence's comments opposing Russian military action in Syria struck a note of discord.
But Trumpworld has always had a complicated relationship with Russia. As OpenSecrets Blog recently reported, a Russian-born oil magnate gave more $150,000 to Trump's campaign and joint fundraising committee, and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort's business dealings with pro-Russian Ukrainian leaders have been well established.
Kingston's lobbying registration represents a new twist in the Trump-Russia-Syria matrix, one that seems to comport more closely with the stance Pence took in the vice presidential debate. More broadly, however, the news is yet one more manifestation of the ability of former elected officials to continue to influence Washington, moving fluidly between the lobbying and campaign worlds.