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 December 9, 2022

Former Rep. David Rivera (R-FL), former roommate of Senator Marco Rubio, arrested for failing to register as a foreign agent

Former Rep. David Rivera (R-FL), who brokered a $50 million consulting deal with the Venezuelan government, was arrested at an Atlanta airport Monday on federal charges, the Washington Examiner reported. Rivera was a one-time roommate of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).

Rubio and Rivera shared a Tallahassee home at one time when both were up-and-coming politicians. However, Rubio is not named in any criminal proceedings.

Rivera was charged with failing to register to represent a foreign government as well as money laundering, Fox News reported. The indictment included six other charges for the former Republican lawmaker, who is no stranger to scandal.

Other instances of alleged misconduct include failure to disclose a $1 million contract with a gambling company. Rivera was also accused of allegedly funneling money to a Democratic candidate to clandestinely take out one of his rivals.

Now, Rivera's ties to Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro have come under intense scrutiny. He received the contract worth half a billion dollars, of which $23.75 million was already paid out.

The former lawmaker was hired as a consultant along with political consultant Esther Nuhfer between 2017 to 2018. Rivera was lobbying for the socialist government during President Donald Trump's administration for more favorable treatment.

He donated $500,000 to Trump's inaugural committee through the Venezuelan-owned Citgo Petroleum Corporation. Rivera was attempting to sway the White House on behalf of the OPEC nation without properly registering.

His efforts ultimately failed as Trump took a hard line against Maduro's government, instead backing Juan Guaido as the nation's leader. Trump continued to sanction petroleum in an effort to push Maduro out despite Rivera's work.

Still, Rivera had attempted to rope Rubio into his scheme, one unnamed official said in a concurrent lawsuit brought against him. Rivera allegedly used code words like "melons" in place of millions of dollars, "bus driver" for Maduro, and Sombrero instead of a congressman's name.

He tried to arrange a meeting between a businessman sympathetic to Maduro and an unnamed official referred to as a White House "counselor." The date of the meeting was June 27, 2017, which is significant because Kellyanne Conway, Trump's senior counselor, was in Miami at the time for a fundraiser.

Rivera also attempted to get former Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) to set up a meeting with Exxon Mobil's CEO. He also texted an unidentified senator who would have Trump's ear in an effort to persuade him to reverse sanctions.

"Remember, US should facilitate, not just support, a negotiated solution," Rivera's text message read. "No vengeance, reconciliation."

There's no way Rivera was ignorant of the implications of working on behalf of a foreign government. He was warned by an attorney during a 2017 breach of contract dispute to stay away from Citgo's U.S. affiliate, and Rivera acknowledged doing so "would be a scandal of monumental proportions" -- but was paid by them weeks later nonetheless.

Scandals happen on both sides of the aisle, and Rivera will have his day in court. Whether his conduct takes down other officials is still unknown, however.

Written By:
Christine Favocci

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