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Congressman Charlie Crist Joins Armenian Caucus

Armenian Assembly Grassroots and Development Associate Mariam Khaloyan and Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Working vigorously through the month of April, the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) held 50 meetings with congressional offices discussing key issues of concern, including reaffirmation of the Armenian Genocide, U.S. assistance to Armenia and Artsakh, as well as Christian and other minority communities at risk in the Middle East.

As a result of these efforts, the Assembly welcomed Representatives Charlie Crist (D-FL), Steve King (R-IA), Eric Swalwell (D-CA), and Steve Knight (R-CA) as the newest Members to join the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, bringing the total to 122 Members.

“I’m proud to join the Armenian Caucus, working in a bipartisan manner to strengthen the U.S.-Armenian relationship – a vital strategic partnership,” stated Rep. Crist.

After meeting with the Assembly, he co-signed this year’s letter to President Donald Trump to formally recognize the Armenian Genocide. Last year, Congressman Crist co-signed a letter to then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urging him to arrest, prosecute, and jail members of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s security detail who attacked peaceful protesters outside the Turkish Ambassador’s residence in Washington, D.C.

Congressman Crist is one of four Members of Congress from Florida who sit on the Armenian Caucus. He represents the 13th congressional district of Florida, on the Gulf Coast from Clearwater down to St. Petersburg, which is home to St. Hagop Armenian Church.

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Armenian Assembly Calls for Public Congressional Hearings on Turkish Interference in America’s Democratic Institutions

Reiterates Call for Members of Congress to Withdraw from the Turkish Caucus

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Amid reports that Department of Justice Special Counsel Robert Mueller will be filing new indictments after probing a potential quid pro quo scheme, whereby then National Security Adviser Michael Flynn would be paid $15 million to secretly carry out Turkey’s bidding, the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) calls for thorough public Congressional hearings to fully expose these matters. Flynn was already paid $530,000 last year for work the Justice Department says benefited the government of Turkey, and did not register as a foreign agent at the time.

The Assembly has repeatedly highlighted Turkey’s attempts to gain surreptitious influence over U.S. officials and media to the detriment of U.S. national security, and has urged investigations therein. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Member, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), in a June 2017 op-ed in The Hill titled “Did Turkey’s payments to Michael Flynn delay our military operations against ISIS?” stated that “questions regarding Turkey, however, reveal most clearly how personal considerations may have overridden our national interests.” In addition, the Assembly has also highlighted Azerbaijan’s attempts to undermine western democratic values and institutions through the billions it has spent in the “Laundromat scheme” to buy silence. Investigations are now bearing fruit. The Assembly has also urged with some success those Representatives who joined the Turkish and Azeri Caucuses to withdraw.

In Florida, Reps. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Ted Deutch (D-FL), and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) sit on the Armenian Caucus. Ros-Lehtinen, who will retire in 2018, is also on the Turkish Caucus, as are Reps. Dennis Ross (R-FL), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Darren Soto (D-FL), Frederica Wilson (D-FL), and Ted Yolo (R-FL). Hastings is the only Florida Representative on the Azerbaijan Caucus.

“The latest news regarding secret payments to Michael Flynn to carry out Turkey’s bidding are just the tip of the iceberg,” stated Assembly Co-Chairs Anthony Barsamian and Van Krikorian. “Illegal Turkish and Azerbaijani money has been flowing into D.C. and we have an obligation to immediately stop these corrupting practices. Beyond thorough investigations and indictments, exposure through public hearings and legislative reform to increase reporting and penalties are necessary to stop officials who can be bought by the Erdogans and Aliyevs of the world from hijacking the American government,” they added. “Members ought not to associate themselves with such corrupt and authoritarian regimes. Given Turkey’s treatment of Christians, dangerously rogue behavior, denial of the Armenian Genocide and support for Azerbaijan’s ISIS-style beheadings and other attacks, it is well past time for Members of Congress to withdraw their membership from the Turkish and Azeri Congressional Caucuses.”

Armenian Advocacy Groups: Contact White House, Congress

By Taniel Shant
FLArmenians Political Contributor

Armenian American advocacy groups, the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) and the Armenian National Committee (ANC), are currently urging the Armenian American community to voice their concerns to the federal government.

Last month, both groups issued ‘Action Alerts’ on issues of concern to the over 1 million strong Armenian American community. Here in Florida, there are approximately 30,000 Armenian Americans.

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With the inauguration of the President Donald J. Trump and the start of the 115th Congress, the groups called on their respective members to take action to boost the Armenian Caucus membership, express opinions regarding the nomination of Jeff Sessions for Attorney General and Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State, as well as contacting the Trump Administration to advance Armenian American policy priorities for 2017.

Prior to the calls for action, both the Assembly and ANC sent congratulatory messages to President Trump on his election (see the Assembly letter here and the ANC letter here).

The Assembly, an independent, non-partisan, Washington, D.C.-based organization, urged members to send messages to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Senate Foreign Relations Committee regarding nominees Sessions and Tillerson. Tillerson was confirmed by the Senate last week and Sessions is expected to be approved this week.

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The Assembly is currently seeking to boost the bi-partisan Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, which currently stands at 87 Members of Congress, a historic low. “The 115th Congress is at work, and we are turning to you to urge your Representative to join the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues,” read the Assembly statement. “We need to expand the Armenian Caucus to counter growing opposition, and hostility in the region. Our goal is to increase the number of Members who will speak up for the rights of the people of Armenia and Artsakh. Please urge your Representative to join the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues,” read the Assembly alert.

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The ANC, the U.S. arm of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, a Yerevan-based Armenian political party, issued calls to its membership to outline key policy priorities to the Trump White House. “Ask President Trump to support Armenia,” reads the ANC alert. The ANC outlined three key policy areas: “Properly commemorating the Armenian Genocide as a clear case of genocide challenging Turkey’s obstruction of justice for this still unpunished crime and more broadly rejecting Turkey’s efforts to control U.S. policy on Armenian issues; Advancing a durable and democratic peace in the Caucasus by recognizing and supporting the independent Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) and; Growing the U.S.-Armenia economic military and political partnership and supporting a secure prosperous and democratic Armenia.”

You can take action on the Assembly and ANC alerts here and here.