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President Trump Statement on Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day

Today, the White House released the following statement from President Donald J. Trump:

Today we commemorate the Meds Yeghern, one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century, when one and a half million Armenians were deported, massacred, or marched to their deaths in the final years of the Ottoman Empire.  We recall the horrific events of 1915 and grieve for the lives lost and the many who suffered.

We also take this moment to recognize the courage of those individuals who sought to end the violence, and those who contributed to aiding survivors and rebuilding communities, including the U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Henry Morgenthau, who sought to end the violence and later raised funds through the Near East Relief to help the Armenian people. We note with deep respect the resilience of the Armenian people, so many of whom built new lives in the United States and have made countless contributions to our country.

As we honor the memory of those who suffered, we also reflect on our commitment to ensure that such atrocities are not repeated.  We underscore the importance of acknowledging and reckoning with painful elements of the past as a necessary step towards creating a more tolerant future.

On this solemn day, we stand with the Armenian people throughout the world in honoring the memory of those lost and commit to work together to build a better future.

“It is a sad day when an American President cannot speak the truth about a proud chapter in American history, where, thanks to America’s unprecedented humanitarian relief effort, thousands and thousands of survivors of the Armenian Genocide were saved in what Ambassador Henry Morgenthau described as a ‘campaign of race extermination,'” stated Armenian Assembly of America Executive Director Bryan Ardouny.  “U.S. credibility on human rights and genocide prevention will be better served when we unequivocally affirm the Armenian Genocide. A genocide denied is an injustice to all,” Ardouny concluded.

* Updated at 3:38pm with the Armenian Assembly of America response.

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Turkey Spends $2.6 Million to Hire Two New Lobbying and PR Firms

By Harut Sassounian
FLArmenians Guest Contributor

Last week, I wrote about a dozen public relations and lobbying firms the Turkish government had already hired. In recent weeks, the Republic of Turkey added two new such firms: Ballard Partners and Burson-Marsteller.

Turkish officials don’t seem to realize that having more than a dozen lobbying firms not only is a waste of money due to unnecessary duplication—it is also a waste of the valuable time of several Turkish Embassy officials in Washington, D.C. These officials have to spend a lot of their time giving detailed instructions to these firms, reading their reports, commenting on them, meeting with them, forwarding their reports to the Foreign Ministry with lengthy explanations, and taking corrective action based on Ankara’s reaction. Unless such an intense and elaborate effort is made in working with so many lobbying firms, Turkish officials are simply wasting their country’s money!

I am happy that the Turkish government has decided to waste more of its money by agreeing to pay Brian Ballard’s firm, Ballard Partners, $1.5 million from May 15 to May 14, 2018. According to Ballard’s registration with the Justice Department, the firm will provide the Turkish government “with advocacy services relative to U.S.-Turkey bilateral relations.” The lobbying activities include “advising, counseling, and assisting [Turkey] in communications with US Government officials. Maintaining U.S. relations with this important NATO partner.”

Brian Ballard is the longtime lobbyist for President Donald Trump as the representative of the Trump Organization in Tallahassee. He raised $16 million for Trump’s presidential campaign while serving as his state finance chairperson and later as vice chairperson of the President’s inaugural committee.

Ballard issued a statement asserting that he “still speaks to Trump on occasion.” Susie Wiles, who was introduced by Ballard to Trump during the campaign, served as Trump’s Florida campaign manager. She is now working for Ballard Partners.

Ballard also hired former Congressman Robert Wexler (D-FL) to be in charge of the Turkish lobbying account. As co-chair of the Congressional Turkey Caucus, Congressman Wexler actively lobbied and voted against a proposed House Armenian Genocide resolution on Oct. 10, 2007. His new job is his reward for staunchly supporting Turkey in Congress for years!

According to the Tampa Bay Times, Ballard’s first interaction with Trump occurred several years ago when he wrote a letter to Trump after reading his book, ‘Trump: The Art of the Deal,’ and Trump answered. Ballard wrote back stating: “if you ever have any issues in Florida, please don’t hesitate to call.” Trump called him after purchasing Mar-a-Largo in 1985, and paid Ballard at least $460,000 from 2013 to 2015 for lobbying work. Trump personally called Ballard asking for his help when he launched his presidential campaign. Ballard is now organizing a fundraising banquet for Trump on June 28. The cost is $35,000 per person and $100,000 to join the host committee.

Ballard makes no secret of his special connections with President Trump. “I would imagine if Hillary Clinton were elected I wouldn’t be here,” he told the Tampa Bay Times. Ballard said, “He doesn’t discuss how he works or his contacts with the president. He’s been spotted at the White House, however, and Trump maintains phone relationships with allies.”

In addition, the Turkish Embassy in Washington signed a contract with Burson-Marsteller for $1.1 million for the period May 1-Dec. 31. Ironically, from 2012 to 2015, Burson-Marsteller was doing lobbying work for the Alliance for Shared Values, a group tied to exiled Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen whom Erdogan opposes and seeks his extradition from the U.S. to Turkey. The Turkish government reportedly threatened Burson-Marsteller’s operations in Turkey if the firm continued to lobby for Gulen.

Burson-Marsteller is supposed to provide “integrated public relations services to support the [Turkish] Embassy’s communications objectives in the United States. Activities include media outreach, monitoring and analysis; event support; stakeholder engagement; social media counsel; and support for Turkish consulates in Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, and New York.”

It is noteworthy that despite the millions of dollars spent by Turkey on more than a dozen high-powered lobbying and public relations firms, they could not counter the large number of news articles and wide TV coverage critical of the Turkish government for the attack on peaceful protesters by President Erdogan’s bodyguards in front of the Turkish Ambassador’s residence in D.C., on May 16. This fact reinforces my firm belief that Turkey is wasting millions of dollars annually trying to cleanse its image in the U.S., which is further tarnished by the Turkish government’s brutal policies both at home and abroad.

Samantha Power to Armenians: “I am very sorry”

By Taniel Koushakjian
FLArmenians Political Editor

Yesterday, Samantha Power became the first Obama administration official to apologize to Armenian Americans for not recognizing the Armenian Genocide.

“I am very sorry that, during our time in office, we in the Obama administration did not recognize the #Armenian Genocide,” Power posted on Twitter.

In a series a tweets on April 24th, Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, Power also discussed “Turkish denial” and expressed empathy for the “slaughter that wd kill 1.5 m.”

Samantha Power served on President Obama’s National Security Council from 2009-2013, and as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations from 2013-2017.

She is the author of the Pulitzer Prize winning book A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, which focused on the U.S. response to 20th century genocides, including Armenia in 1915.

While the emphatic expression may be welcome to some, many Armenian Americans share the feeling of betrayal by Power, and President Obama, given the multiple statements and meetings they held with community members during the 2008 campaign.

“This is more insulting 2 our ppl than 8yrs of ignoring our requests.U sacrificed ur own conscience on the altar of geopolitical correctness,” FLArmenians Editor Arsine Kaloustian replied on Twitter.

The Obama administration’s moral laryngitis on the Armenian Genocide was compounded in 2015, the centennial anniversary, when Power and Vice President Joe Biden attended the international commemoration at the Washington National Cathedral.

WASHINGTON, DC – MAY 07: President of Armenia, Serzh Sargsyan, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, and U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power attend the Armenian Genocide Centennial (NCAGC) Ecumenical Service at Washington National Cathedral on May 7, 2015 in Washington DC. (Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images for NCAGC)

Power’s re-acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide came moments after President Trump’s first statement on Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day was released yesterday morning.

President Trump’s statement on Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day echoed President Obama’s use of the phrase “Meds Yeghern,” and invoked language similar to President George W. Bush.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked about President Trump’s omission of the word genocide during the daily press briefing. “The statement that was put out is consistent with the statements that have been put out for at least several of the past administrations,” Spicer said.