Trump ally charged with acting as foreign agent
Thomas Barrack, a close ally to former US president Donald Trump and one of his top fundraisers, was arrested and charged Tuesday with not disclosing his lobbying on behalf of a foreign government.
The Justice Department unsealed an indictment in New York federal court accusing three suspects, including wealthy 74-year-old businessman Barrack, of failing to register as agents of the United Arab Emirates as they attempted to influence Trump on foreign policy during the presidential campaign and beyond.
“The defendants repeatedly capitalized on Barrack’s friendships and access to a candidate who was eventually elected president, (and) high-ranking campaign and government officials… to advance the policy goals of a foreign government without disclosing their true allegiances,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Mark Lesko said in a statement.
“The conduct alleged in the indictment is nothing short of a betrayal of those officials in the United States, including the former president.”
Barrack, a private equity investor and longtime Trump friend who chaired Trump’s 2017 inaugural committee, was also charged with obstruction of justice and making multiple false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about his work for the UAE.
Barrack’s spokesman released a statement saying Barrack had made himself voluntarily available to investigators from the start.
“He is not guilty and will be pleading not guilty,” the spokesman said, according to The New York Times.
Trump himself was not charged or implicated. But it is the latest legal trouble for those in the New York real estate tycoon’s orbit.
Earlier this month his company and its long-serving finance chief Allen Weisselberg were charged with fraud and tax crimes. Both pleaded not guilty.
Charged along with Barrack are Matthew Grimes, 27, an employee in the global investment management firm run by Barrack; and Rashid Sultan Rashid Al Malik Alshahhi, a UAE national who coordinated by text and email with Barrack and Grimes on multiple occasions and met with them in the Emirates and United States.
– ‘I nailed it’ –
Barrack and Grimes were scheduled to appear in court in Los Angeles later Tuesday. Alshahhi remains at large, the Justice Department said.
According to the indictment, in May 2016, when he served as an informal advisor to the Trump campaign, Barrack established himself as the UAE’s “key communications channel” to the campaign.
Barrack was repeatedly in contact with several senior Emirati officials, and on multiple occasions referred to Alshahhi as the UAE’s “secret weapon” to advance its foreign policy agenda in the United States.
Barrack managed to insert language praising the UAE into a Trump campaign speech on US energy policy delivered in May 2016, and the defendants sought and received talking points from senior UAE officials for multiple media appearances by Barrack.
“I nailed it… for the home team,” Barrack emailed Alshahhi after one appearance in which he repeatedly praised the UAE, according to the charging document.
After Trump took office, Barrack coordinated repeatedly with his co-defendants on influencing Trump’s picks for ambassadorships and other key posts, the indictment says, and sought to directly influence US foreign policy related to the Gulf.