search
Sections List
American Journal News

Republican Ex-Rep. David Rivera arrested in Venezuela lobbying probe

A former Congressman that is being charged by federal prosecutors for attempting to help the Venezuelan government under Nicolas Maduro had contact with multiple congressional Republicans and members of the Trump administration.

By Associated Press - December 07, 2022
Share
Then-Florida Republican Congressional candidate David Rivera speaks on Nov. 2, 2010, in Coral Gables, Fla.
FILE - Then-Florida Republican Congressional candidate David Rivera speaks on Nov. 2, 2010, in Coral Gables, Fla. The former Miami congressman who signed a $50 million consulting contract with Venezuela’s socialist government has been arrested Monday, Dec. 5, 2022, in connection to an ongoing federal criminal investigation, law enforcement officials said. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — A former Miami congressman who signed a $50 million consulting contract with Venezuela’s socialist government was arrested Monday on charges of money laundering and representing a foreign government without registering.

David Rivera, a Republican who has been marred by scandals stretching back to his days in Congress from 2011 to 2013, was arrested in Atlanta, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami.

The eight-count indictment alleges Rivera at the start of the Trump administration was part of a conspiracy to lobby on behalf of Venezuela to lower tensions with the U.S., resolve a legal dispute with a U.S. oil company and end U.S. sanctions against the South American nation — all without registering as a foreign agent.

The indictment cites meetings in Washington, New York and Dallas that Rivera either attended or tried to set up for allies of President Nicolas Maduro with U.S. lawmakers and a top aide to former President Donald Trump. To hide the sensitive nature of his work, prosecutors allege Rivera referred to Maduro in chat messages as the “bus driver,” a congressman as “Sombrero” and millions of dollars as “melons.”

While none of the U.S. officials are named, evidence in a parallel lawsuit brought against Rivera show that while working for Venezuela the former congressman was in contact with Sen. Marco Rubio, a longtime friend who helped drive the Trump administration’s hardline policy against Maduro.

As part of the charm offensive, he also looked to set up a possible flight and meeting on a the jet of a pro-Maduro businessman for a female campaign adviser turned White House “counselor” on June 27, 2017 — the same day Trump aide Kellyanne Conway was in Miami for a fundraising dinner with Miami Republicans.

He also roped in Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas to try and set up a meeting for Venezuela’s foreign minister with executives from Exxon, which was headquartered in Sessions’ district at the time.

In July 2017, for example, the indictment alleges Rivera wrote in text messages to the unnamed U.S. senator ahead of a key meeting at the White House where he hoped the lawmaker would discuss with Trump a possible deal to end Venezuela’s never-ending political conflict.

“Remember, US should facilitate, not just support, a negotiated solution,” he wrote. “No vengeance, reconciliation.”

Rubio and Sessions’ offices didn’t immediately respond to email and phone requests for comment.

Pressure has been building on Rivera for more than two years after it emerged that he received the massive contract from a U.S. affiliate of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company as Maduro was trying to curry favor with the Trump White House.

Rivera’s Interamerican Consulting was sued in 2020 by PDV USA — a Delaware-based affiliate of Venezuelan-owned Citgo — for not living up to the contract he signed in 2017 for three months of “strategic consulting.”

Although Rivera’s contract was originally signed with a U.S. entity, any work he performed on behalf of Maduro’s government or Venezuelan business interests required him to register as a foreign lobbyist.

It was something prosecutors allege Rivera acknowledged himself in October 2017 when he sent a text message relaying a lawyer’s advice not to get anywhere near parent company PDVSA in Caracas and that failure to stay away “would be a scandal of monumental proportions.” Three weeks later, prosecutors say he received a $5 million payment from PDVSA’s account at Gazprom Bank in Russia.

Rivera, 57, has maintained his innocence and has countersued PDV USA, alleging breach of contract and unjust enrichment for its failure to pay $30 million he says he is still owed. A lawyer for Rivera said he had not seen the indictment and Rivera did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

The U.S. Marshals Service said Rivera bailed out of jail Monday afternoon after making an initial appearance in Atlanta federal court.

Around the time Rivera was hired, Maduro’s government was seeking to court the Trump’s administration, donating $500,000 to his inaugural committee through Citgo and initially avoiding outright criticism of the new U.S. president, who had a penchant for praising strongmen including Russia’s Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un.

The outreach effort ultimately failed, as Trump in 2019 recognized opposition lawmaker Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate leader and imposed stiff oil sanctions on the OPEC nation in a bid to unseat Maduro.

Records that emerged as part of the ongoing lawsuit show Rivera’s consulting work was closely coordinated with Raul Gorrin — a Venezuelan insider and media tycoon who has been sanctioned and indicted in the U.S. on money laundering charges.

Prior to being charged in late 2018, Gorrin had enmeshed himself in south Florida, where he owned a luxurious home, and fashioned himself a peacemaker who could build bridges across Venezuela’s deep political divide as well as between Maduro’s government and the U.S.

While Rivera was working with Venezuela, Gorrin’s TV network hired Trump-connected lobbyist Brian Ballard to purportedly explore opportunities for a U.S. expansion. During that time Gorrin took a photo with Vice President Mike Pence at an event in Miami. It was also during this time that prosecutors allege Rivera tried to arrange a meeting aboard the private jet for the visiting White House adviser.

“The six-hour meeting with (the President of the United States)’s counselor . . . is more important than the meeting with (the Vice-President of the United States), because she made him president directing his campaign. And she works at his side every day,” Rivera texted the businessman, who is identified only as “Foreign Individual 1” in the indictment.

Correspondence introduced as part of the lawsuit shows Rivera and the businessman also discussing buying “concert tickets” — a possible code word for bribes — to unnamed officials and attempting to coordinate a meeting between Venezuela’s foreign minister and executives from Exxon.

As part of that effort, they also roped in Sessions, who secretly traveled to Venezuela in 2018 to meet with Maduro.

Prosecutors allege some of the $15 million that Rivera received as part of the contract was funneled to pay for maintenance on one of the businessman’s superyachts. Other funds were transferred to Miami-based political consultant Esther Nuhfer, who was also charged. A smaller amount was paid to another woman, an unnamed Orlando-based political consultant, who acted as a liaison to the U.S. congressman.

Rivera’s contract had all the hallmarks of a sham, according to PDV USA, which since 2019 has been run by directors appointed by the U.S.-backed opposition.

According to the lawsuit, Rivera’s Interamerican made just $9,500 in the year before being picked, out of the blue, by Venezuela’s then Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez without any due diligence. Rivera never met in person with anyone from Citgo or PDV USA while supposedly working on its behalf. Instead, he filed two “deficient and incoherent” progress reports of the seven he was required to submit.

“The written record is bereft of any evidence that Interamerican performed any of the contracted services,” PDV USA argues in court filings. “There is not a single email, a single PowerPoint presentation, a single outline, a single memorandum, a single calendar entry, or anything else suggesting that Interamerican ever performed any of the services.”

Before being elected to Congress, Rivera was a high-ranking Florida legislator, serving from 2003 to 2010 in the House. During that time he shared a Tallahassee home with Rubio, who eventually became Florida House speaker.

Rivera has been embroiled in several election-related controversies, including orchestrating the stealth funding of an unknown Democratic candidate to take on his main rival in a South Florida congressional race and a state investigation into whether he hid a $1 million contract with a gambling company. That probe also involved possible misuse of campaign funds to pay for state House activities already reimbursed by the state.


Read More
Biden calls for expanded child tax credit, taxes on wealthy in $7.2 trillion budget plan

Biden calls for expanded child tax credit, taxes on wealthy in $7.2 trillion budget plan

By Jennifer Shutt, States Newsroom - March 11, 2024
December jobs report: Wages up, hiring steady as job market ends year strong

December jobs report: Wages up, hiring steady as job market ends year strong

By Casey Quinlan - January 05, 2024
Biden’s infrastructure law is boosting Nevada’s economy. Sam Brown opposed it.

Biden’s infrastructure law is boosting Nevada’s economy. Sam Brown opposed it.

By Jesse Valentine - November 15, 2023
Biden infrastructure law helps Pennsylvania’s small manufacturers

Biden infrastructure law helps Pennsylvania’s small manufacturers

By Oliver Willis - October 20, 2023
GOP senators try to stop EPA rule projected to save consumers millions of dollars

GOP senators try to stop EPA rule projected to save consumers millions of dollars

By Oliver Willis - October 20, 2023
Democratic bill would increase housing access for formerly incarcerated Michigan residents

Democratic bill would increase housing access for formerly incarcerated Michigan residents

By Alyssa Burr - October 18, 2023
AJ News
Latest
Ted Cruz leverages Trump conviction on podcast for own personal gain

Ted Cruz leverages Trump conviction on podcast for own personal gain

By Jesse Valentine - June 11, 2024
Arizona Republican Kari Lake proposes massive cuts to Medicaid and Medicare

Arizona Republican Kari Lake proposes massive cuts to Medicaid and Medicare

By Jesse Valentine - June 10, 2024
Virginia U.S. Senate candidate Hung Cao says workplace diversity is ‘Marxism’

Virginia U.S. Senate candidate Hung Cao says workplace diversity is ‘Marxism’

By Jesse Valentine - June 06, 2024
Republican Bernie Moreno’s rags-to-riches story exposed as a lie

Republican Bernie Moreno’s rags-to-riches story exposed as a lie

By Jesse Valentine - May 24, 2024
What happens to clinics after a state bans abortion? They fight to survive.

What happens to clinics after a state bans abortion? They fight to survive.

By Chabeli Carrazana and Shefali Luthra - May 22, 2024
Former Sen. Kelly Ayotte took job at Caterpillar after tax fraud probe

Former Sen. Kelly Ayotte took job at Caterpillar after tax fraud probe

By Jesse Valentine - May 21, 2024
Alabama OB-GYN residencies dropped over 20% after Dobbs, state abortion ban, says analysis

Alabama OB-GYN residencies dropped over 20% after Dobbs, state abortion ban, says analysis

By Alander Rocha, Alabama Reflector - May 21, 2024
House GOP celebrates National Police Week while pushing to defund local law enforcement

House GOP celebrates National Police Week while pushing to defund local law enforcement

By Jesse Valentine - May 16, 2024
Evolution denier Mark Robinson could reshape North Carolina’s education system

Evolution denier Mark Robinson could reshape North Carolina’s education system

By Jesse Valentine - May 16, 2024
Republican Jay Ashcroft backs anti-abortion clinics that push lies and disinformation

Republican Jay Ashcroft backs anti-abortion clinics that push lies and disinformation

By Jesse Valentine - May 14, 2024
Republican Sam Brown’s assault on teacher unions could backfire

Republican Sam Brown’s assault on teacher unions could backfire

By Jesse Valentine - May 09, 2024
Florida abortion ban puts GOP Rep. Anna Paulina Luna’s anti-choice views in spotlight

Florida abortion ban puts GOP Rep. Anna Paulina Luna’s anti-choice views in spotlight

By Jesse Valentine - May 07, 2024
Trump leaves door open to banning medication abortion nationwide

Trump leaves door open to banning medication abortion nationwide

By Jennifer Shutt, States Newsroom - April 30, 2024
Republican Caroleene Dobson wants Alabama abortion ban to go nationwide

Republican Caroleene Dobson wants Alabama abortion ban to go nationwide

By Jesse Valentine - April 30, 2024
Ohio Gov. DeWine said he didn’t know of millions in FirstEnergy support. Is it plausible?

Ohio Gov. DeWine said he didn’t know of millions in FirstEnergy support. Is it plausible?

By Marty Schladen, Ohio Capital Journal - April 29, 2024
GOP Rep. Zach Nunn suggests laws against hate crime aren’t needed

GOP Rep. Zach Nunn suggests laws against hate crime aren’t needed

By Jesse Valentine - April 15, 2024
GOP Senate candidate Hung Cao blames racial equity for Baltimore bridge tragedy

GOP Senate candidate Hung Cao blames racial equity for Baltimore bridge tragedy

By Jesse Valentine - March 29, 2024
GOP Rep. Jennifer Kiggans donates thousands to far-right extremists

GOP Rep. Jennifer Kiggans donates thousands to far-right extremists

By Jesse Valentine - March 08, 2024
Ohio senate candidate Bernie Moreno: “Absolute pro-life no exceptions.”

Ohio senate candidate Bernie Moreno: “Absolute pro-life no exceptions.”

By Jesse Valentine - March 07, 2024
Anti-China Republicans pocket thousands from Chinese owned conglomerate

Anti-China Republicans pocket thousands from Chinese owned conglomerate

By Jesse Valentine - March 04, 2024
Republican Eric Hovde makes inconsistent statements about family history

Republican Eric Hovde makes inconsistent statements about family history

By Jesse Valentine - February 26, 2024
Republican David McCormick invests millions in website that platforms Holocaust denial

Republican David McCormick invests millions in website that platforms Holocaust denial

By Jesse Valentine - February 09, 2024
Lawmakers will again take up bills expanding, tightening gun laws

Lawmakers will again take up bills expanding, tightening gun laws

By Annmarie Timmins, New Hampshire Bulletin - January 31, 2024
UAW delivers rousing presidential endorsement for Biden over ‘scab’ Trump

UAW delivers rousing presidential endorsement for Biden over ‘scab’ Trump

By Ashley Murray, States Newsroom - January 24, 2024
Republicans Sam Brown and Jeff Gunter sling mud in Nevada senate primary

Republicans Sam Brown and Jeff Gunter sling mud in Nevada senate primary

By Jesse Valentine - January 17, 2024
A Young Texas Woman Almost Died Due To The Texas Abortion Bans – Now She’s Battling To Save Other Women

A Young Texas Woman Almost Died Due To The Texas Abortion Bans – Now She’s Battling To Save Other Women

By Bonnie Fuller - January 10, 2024
Health care legislation preview: Maryland advocates want to focus on access, patients in 2024 session

Health care legislation preview: Maryland advocates want to focus on access, patients in 2024 session

By Danielle J. Brown, Maryland Matters - January 08, 2024
How GOP senate hopefuls try to excuse the  January 6 insurrection

How GOP senate hopefuls try to excuse the  January 6 insurrection

By Jesse Valentine - January 05, 2024
NH lawmakers will be taking up major voting bills this year. Here are some to watch for.

NH lawmakers will be taking up major voting bills this year. Here are some to watch for.

By Ethan DeWitt, New Hampshire Bulletin - January 04, 2024
Republican US Senate candidates want to make Trump’s tax cuts permanent 

Republican US Senate candidates want to make Trump’s tax cuts permanent 

By Jesse Valentine - December 22, 2023
Rand Paul went all in on the Kentucky governor’s race. It didn’t work.

Rand Paul went all in on the Kentucky governor’s race. It didn’t work.

By - December 15, 2023
Texas governor and attorney general do little to curb state’s chemical plant crisis

Texas governor and attorney general do little to curb state’s chemical plant crisis

By Jesse Valentine - December 08, 2023
Likely GOP Senate candidate Eric Hovde proposed tax hike for poorer workers and retirees

Likely GOP Senate candidate Eric Hovde proposed tax hike for poorer workers and retirees

By Jesse Valentine - December 07, 2023
Whitmer signs specific criminal penalties for assaulting health care workers into law

Whitmer signs specific criminal penalties for assaulting health care workers into law

By Anna Liz Nichols, Michigan Advance - December 06, 2023
105 Republicans voted to expel Santos for things Trump has also done

105 Republicans voted to expel Santos for things Trump has also done

By Jesse Valentine - December 05, 2023
For Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, another Trump term is another chance to kill Obamacare

For Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, another Trump term is another chance to kill Obamacare

By Jesse Valentine - December 04, 2023
Florida Sen. Rick Scott backs Donald Trump in revived push to repeal Obamacare

Florida Sen. Rick Scott backs Donald Trump in revived push to repeal Obamacare

By Jesse Valentine - November 30, 2023
Tate Reeves took donations from power company that hiked customer rates

Tate Reeves took donations from power company that hiked customer rates

By Jesse Valentine - November 06, 2023
Daniel Cameron ran on depoliticizing the Kentucky AG’s office. He made it more political.

Daniel Cameron ran on depoliticizing the Kentucky AG’s office. He made it more political.

By Jesse Valentine - November 03, 2023
Republican operatives sound every alarm on current trajectory of 2023 governor’s race

Republican operatives sound every alarm on current trajectory of 2023 governor’s race

By Adam Ganucheau, Mississippi Today - October 24, 2023
Whitmer creates task force aiming to prevent gun violence in Michigan

Whitmer creates task force aiming to prevent gun violence in Michigan

By Jon King, Michigan Advance - June 20, 2024
Emergency care for pregnant women at stake in Supreme Court case, Missouri doctor warns

Emergency care for pregnant women at stake in Supreme Court case, Missouri doctor warns

By Anna Spoerre, Missouri Independent - June 18, 2024
In Grand Rapids, DeVos declines to say whether she’ll endorse Trump

In Grand Rapids, DeVos declines to say whether she’ll endorse Trump

By Kyle Davidson, Michigan Advance - June 18, 2024
Michigan Republican Mike Rogers worked for organization that threatened privacy rights

Michigan Republican Mike Rogers worked for organization that threatened privacy rights

By Jesse Valentine - June 18, 2024
Nevada Republican Sam Brown has ties to extremist who compared abortion to slavery

Nevada Republican Sam Brown has ties to extremist who compared abortion to slavery

By Jesse Valentine - June 18, 2024
U.S. Supreme Court overturns ban on bump stocks used in Las Vegas mass shooting

U.S. Supreme Court overturns ban on bump stocks used in Las Vegas mass shooting

By Ariana Figueroa, Pennsylvania Capital Star - June 14, 2024