The Washington lobbyist John McCain has named to head his presidential transition team aided an influence effort on behalf of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to ease international sanctions against his regime.
The two lobbyists who McCain aide William Timmons worked closely with over a five year period on the lobbying campaign for Iraq later either pleaded guilty to or were convicted of federal criminal charges that they had acted as unregistered agents of Saddam Hussein's government.
During the same period beginning in 1992, Timmons worked closely with the two lobbyists, Samir Vincent and Tongsun Park, on a previously unreported prospective deal with the Iraqis in which they hoped to be awarded a contract to purchase and resell Iraqi oil. Timmons, Vincent, and Park stood to share at least $45 million if the business deal went through.
Timmons previously told investigators that he did not know that either Vincent or Park were acting as unregistered agents of Iraq. He also insisted that he did not fully understand just how closely the two men were tied to Saddam's regime while they collaborated.
But testimony and records made public during Park's criminal trial, as well as other information uncovered during a United Nations investigation, suggest just the opposite.
Samir Vincent testified at Park's trial about a trip he took to Iraq during which he met with Saddam personally, and listened as the Iraqi dictator expressed his desire to have sanctions lifted and normal relations with the U.S. restored.
The prosecutor then asked Vincent: "When you returned to the U.S., did you tell anyone about your visit with Saddam Hussein?"
Vincent replied: "I told Bill Timmons and Tongsun Park."
Prosecutor: "Why did you tell Bill Timmons about your visit with Saddam?"
Vincent: "To let him know that we were talking to the leader of Iraq, and in essence we have access, and assure him that any messages we were relaying between Iraqi (sic) and Tariq Aziz [a top Saddam aide] and anyone else, it was being transmitted to the president, Saddam Hussein, in Iraq."