U.S. Sen. Rick Scott is hammering Amsterdam & Partners LLP after the law firm took over a contract to represent a member of the Nicolás Maduro government.
That contract was originally handled by the law firm Foley & Lardner. The contract tasked the firm to work on behalf of Venezuelan Attorney General Reinaldo Muñoz Pedroza. Muñoz Pedroza was appointed Attorney General by Maduro, though the United States no longer recognizes Maduro’s government as legitimate.
Muñoz Pedroza has been dispatched by Maduro in the past to intervene in U.S. court cases to recover disputed funds for the Maduro government.
After outcry — including from Scott himself — Foley & Lardner dropped the contract.
Friday morning, the Associated Press (AP) reported Amsterdam & Partners had picked up the contract. That’s leading to another round of criticism from Scott, who has gone so far as to accuse the Maduro regime of “genocide.”
“I recently called on another firm to stop working for Nicolas Maduro’s brutal regime in Venezuela, and they heeded that call,” Scott said in his Friday statement.
“Now, Amsterdam and Partners has chosen to take over that contract. I will not stand for this and will refuse to work with anyone in this firm or anyone that contracts on this matter with this firm. I’m urging every one of my colleagues to stand with me against anyone who willingly represents a dangerous dictator.”
Chris Kise, the lawyer who turned over key documents in the ethics case against former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, had been working on the case while Foley & Lardner controlled the contract. Kise is a lawyer at Foley & Lardner.
Kise was tasked with helping Muñoz Pedroza argue that U.S. sanctions imposed on Venezuela should be reduced. Those sanctions are aimed at driving Maduro out of power.
According to the AP, the exact nature of the work Amsterdam & Partners will do is unclear.
Lawyer Bob Amsterdam declined to comment on the nature of work for Maduro’s Inspector General Reinaldo Muñoz, other than saying it would focus on sanctions and human rights issues, the outlet reported.
Amsterdam also told the AP he rejected Scott’s calls for a boycott of the firm.
“We aren’t going to bend to the political dictates of Florida,” Amsterdam said. “But I don’t like it when people are denied representation.”
Amsterdam, a Canadian lawyer, heads a law firm with offices in Washington and London. In the past, it has represented a mix of repressive governments hostile to the U.S. as well as clients persecuted by authoritarian governments.
Since 2015, he’s assisted Turkey in seeking the extradition of a U.S.-based cleric and political enemy of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey’s government is a staunch economic and political ally of Maduro.
Amsterdam has also represented exiled Russian businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky, for which he said he was briefly arrested in Moscow by authorities loyal to President Vladimir Putin on the night the billionaire was sentenced to eight years in prison. He also represented former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
A decade ago, he represented Venezuelan banker Eligio Cedeño, who had been accused of helping businessmen defraud the government of millions of dollars. Once freed on bail, he immediately fled to the U.S., where he remains in exile. In retaliation, then-President Hugo Chávez jailed the judge who signed his release.
Trump has reiterated his support for Juan Guaidó, the opposition leader recognized by nearly 60 nations as Venezuela’s rightful leader, recently meeting with him in Washington and inviting him to the State of the Union address.
But the opposition has struggled to revive momentum and draw supporters to the streets as Maduro maintains his grip on power. Several attempts at dialogue, including one last year sponsored by Norway, have fizzled.
Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to pursue a strategy of economic pressure, hitting Russian-controlled Rosneft Trading S.A. and its president, Didier Casimiro, with aggressive financial measures designed to cut Maduro off from a lifeline.
The Associated Press contributed to this post. Republished with permission.