At Prayer Breakfast, Guests Seek Access to a Different Higher Power

 With a lineup of prayer meetings, humanitarian forums and religious panels, the National Prayer Breakfast has long brought together people from all over the world for an agenda built around the teachings of Jesus.

But there on the guest list in recent years was Maria Butina, looking to meet high-level American officials and advance the interests of the Russian state, and Yulia Tymoshenko, a Ukranian opposition leader, seeking a few minutes with President Trump to burnish her credentials as a presidential prospect back home.

Their presence at the breakfast illuminates the way the annual event has become an international influence-peddling bazaar, where foreign dignitaries, religious leaders, diplomats and lobbyists jockey for access to the highest reaches of American power.

The subculture around the breakfast was thrust into the spotlight last week with the indictment of Ms. Butina, who was charged with conspiring to act as a Russian agent. Her goals, prosecutors said, included gaining access to the breakfast “to establish a back channel of communication” between influential Russians and Americans “to promote the political interests of the Russian Federation.”

.. Ms. Butina’s spy-thriller-like tactics hint at the more widespread, if less sensational, international maneuvering that pervades the prayer breakfast, and the lucrative opportunities it creates for Washington’s corps of lobbyists and fixers, according to more than half a dozen people who have been involved in peddling access around the event.

.. Ahead of Mr. Trump’s first appearance at the breakfast last year, some of the people said, foreign politicians clamored for tickets, with some offering to pay steep fees to get into the event and the myriad gatherings on its sidelines.

One lobbyist, Herman J. Cohen, offered what he billed as an exclusive invitation to last year’s breakfast, and three days of meetings around it, to an African leader for $220,000.

.. “It’s an opportunity,” Mr. Cohen said of the event. “If I go to the prayer breakfast, I have a good chance of maybe shaking the president’s hand or talking to him for two minutes.”

“In a way, it bypasses protocols,” he added, “but in a way, it is taking advantage of people being present in the same venue.” Such invitations to foreign leaders, he said, are “very useful to them back home.”

.. Some describe the gathering as similar to the World Economic Forum, except that Jesus is the organizing principle. The eclectic guest list has included the Dalai Lama, the Rev. Billy Graham, Mother Teresa, the singer Bono and the former Redskins coach Joe Gibbs, as well as the Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat and President Paul Kagame of Rwanda.

.. With its relative lack of diplomatic protocols and press coverage, the prayer breakfast setting is ideal for foreign figures who might not otherwise be able to easily get face time with top American officials, because of unsavory reputations or a lack of an official government perch, according to lobbyists who help arrange such trips. They also contend that it is easier to secure visas when the breakfast is listed as a destination.

.. “You can’t just invite wonderful, exciting, great people,” said Mr. Hall. “Jesus, when he went to dinner, he went to dinner with everybody.”

Trump Arrived in Davos as a Party Wrecker. He Leaves Praised as a Pragmatist.

But a rough consensus emerged over Mr. Trump’s two-day visit that his administration had shown itself to be more pragmatic than advertised. Many were inclined to view the president’s most extreme positions as just aggressive bargaining postures.

.. “There’s a very constructive mind-set in the Trump administration to find the best path forward,” said Vas Narasimhan, global chief of drug development for Novartis

.. He left the impression that he was above all eager to woo foreign investment, as if he were leading some amped-up American Chamber of Commerce.

.. Economists note that the American economy is into its ninth year of expansion, a trend that speaks to how the aftermath from the 2008 financial crisis has finally run its course.

.. And he gained the unbridled endorsement from the man who heads the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab, whose eagerness to flatter his interlocutors is legendary.

.. Whatever the optics of the head of an institution dedicated to reducing economic inequality offering his unqualified support for Mr. Trump’s tax cuts, Mr. Schwab was indeed speaking for business.

How China Aims to Limit the West’s Global Influence

In January, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, President Xi Jinping of China called his country a champion of free trade and globalization. And at an international conference in Beijing in May, he laid out China’s grand vision of promoting global integration by linking Asia, Europe and beyond through a new network of roads, railways and sea routes.

.. China is fashioning a new form of multilateralism

.. This strategy will advance its economic and political influence in a far more effective manner than a unilateral approach built on brute economic force, a tactic that has produced mixed results for China so far.

.. With the United States apparently pulling back from multilateralism

.. This form of multilateralism is built on transactional principles very different from the type of global order the United States and other Western economies have championed, one built on trust and mutual cooperation. It will eschew values like democracy, human rights and freedom of expression, which the United States has long sought to promote around the world.

.. Beijing’s strategy has two main prongs. The first is to change the rules of the game from within, by expanding Chinese influence in existing international institutions.

.. But the other side of the bargain — China’s opening — was not fulfilled. Foreign exporters and investors still face many barriers in China.

.. Foreign businesses undertaking production in China also have to partner with local companies, requiring transfers of technological expertise and intellectual property. Foreign investment is still restricted in certain sectors, including financial services like insurance.

.. The country is now one of the prime users of the W.T.O. dispute-settlement process to protect its own interests and to aggressively counter trade actions brought against it by other countries.

.. At these organizations, the United States and other advanced Western economies together still have the dominant voting power. So, China has been subtle in its approach, creating alliances with other emerging-market countries like India and Russia to advance its priorities.

.. The second prong of China’s strategy is to set up its own international institutions.

.. Initiatives like One Belt, One Road — the plan to invest $1 trillion or more in transcontinental infrastructure — and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which started operation last year, allow Beijing to cloak its influence behind the facade of a large group of countries

.. The professed multilateral nature of its initiatives allows Beijing to pull other countries more tightly into its fold. It becomes harder for countries that do not share China’s values to stay on the sidelines. Many countries joining with China say they must do so to influence these new institutions from the inside rather than just complain about them from the outside. This was the justification when Britain, Germany and France signed up to become founding members of the Asian infrastructure bank, leaving the United States fuming.

Anthony Scaramucci

In June 2017, he became a senior vice president and chief strategy officer at the U.S. Export-Import Bank.[4]

In 2008, Scaramucci served as a fundraiser for President Barack Obama.[31] In September 2010, Scaramucci asked Obama at a CNBC Town Hall meeting when he was going to “stop whacking Wall Street like a piñata.”[32]

.. He is a registered Republican and served as a National Finance Co-Chair for Mitt Romney for President in 2012.

During the 2016 presidential election, Scaramucci first endorsed Scott Walker and later Jeb Bush. In May 2016, after both Walker and Bush had withdrawn from the race, he signed on to Donald Trump‘s political campaign by joining the Trump Finance Committee.[34]

.. In January 2017, he told New York magazine that the “thing I have learned about these people in Washington is they have no money”, and described such congressmen as “jackasses”.[36]

.. They reported that Priebus opposed Scaramucci’s appointment because Scaramucci had a direct relationship with Trump.[6]

.. He is a member of the World Economic Forum and speaks at the annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland