Trump’s friend Tom Barrack arrested on UAE lobbying charges

Thomas Barrack, a private equity investor who is a close friend of former President Donald Trump, was arrested Tuesday morning in Los Angeles on federal charges of unlawfully lobbying Trump on behalf of the United Arab Emirates.

Barrack, who was indicted along with two other men in a seven-count indictment in Brooklyn, New York, federal court, was chairman of Trump’s inaugural fund in 2017.

The Santa Monica, Calif., Resident of Santa Monica, Calif., Is accused, along with others, of secretly defending the interests of the United Arab Emirates under the leadership of senior United Arab Emirates officials by influencing the foreign policy positions of the Trump campaign in 2016, then the positions of the US government during Trump’s presidency until April 2018.

Barrack, who has never registered with the U.S. government as an agent of the United Arab Emirates, is also accused of obstructing justice and making multiple false statements in a June 2019 interview with federal law enforcement officials.

The indictment noted that Barrack, 74, during the period covered by the indictment, was informally advising US officials on Middle East policy and also seeking an appointment to a senior position in the indictment. in the US government, including as special envoy to the Middle East.

The evidence against Barrack includes thousands of emails, text messages, iCloud tapes, theft tapes and social media tapes, prosecutors separately said in a detention memo.

Prosecutors said that “the evidence of [Barrack’s] the guilt in this case is overwhelming. “

Prosecutors also said Barrack met with and assisted senior officials of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which is a close ally of the United Arab Emirates, and that he “provided United Arab Emirates government officials” with sensitive information non-public on developments in the administration, including information on the positions of several senior United States government officials regarding the Qatari blockade carried out by the United Arab Emirates and other Middle Eastern countries. East.'”

Matthew Grimes, 27, of Aspen, Colorado, and 43-year-old UAE national Rashid Sultan Rashid Al Malik Alshahhi, still at large, are charged with Barrack.

Grimes, who worked directly for Barrack at Barrack-founded private equity firm Colony Capital, was arrested in California on Tuesday.

Grimes has a “close personal relationship” with Barrack, has made more than 50 international trips aboard Barrack’s private plane and lists Barrack’s $ 15 million home in Aspen as his primary residence, prosecutors said in a court record.

“On several occasions Barrack has referred to [Al Malik] as the UAE’s “secret weapon” to advance its foreign policy agenda in the United States, ”the Justice Department said in a press release.

“In the pursuit of the alleged criminal conspiracy and conduct, Barrack and Grimes, with the assistance of [Al Malik], acquired a dedicated cell phone and installed a secure messaging application to facilitate Barrack’s communications with senior officials in the United Arab Emirates, ”the department said.

Acting Deputy Attorney General Mark Lesko of the Department of Justice’s National Security Division said: “The defendants have repeatedly taken advantage of Barrack’s friendships and access to a candidate who ultimately been elected president, to senior campaign and government officials, and to the US media to advance policy. objectives of a foreign government without revealing their true allegiances. “

Thomas Barrack, President and CEO of Colony Capital Inc., gestures during the closing reception at the Milken Institute Japan Symposium in Tokyo, Japan on Monday, March 25, 2019. The conference brings together business leaders and government officials to discuss geopolitical, economic and social issues facing Japan. Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

“The behavior alleged in the indictment is nothing less than a betrayal of those officials in the United States, including the former president,” Lesko said in a statement.

Prosecutors in a memo calling for Barrack’s detention in Los Angeles pending his Brooklyn bail hearing at a later date said Barrack, in his communications with Al Malik, “considered his efforts to secure an official post within the administration as one that would enable it to further advance the interests of the United Arab Emirates, rather than the interests of the United States. “

“When the accused applied for a post of US Ambassador to the UAE or Special Envoy to the Middle East, he informed Al Malik that such an appointment” would give ABU DHABI more power! “said the memo, referring to the capital of the United Arab Emirates.

“Al Malik agreed that if the Respondent were to successfully secure an appointment to such an official post, it would make him” more effective “for the UAE, making their efforts a”[v]very efficient operation. The accused agreed. “

Prosecutors noted that Barrack, who holds Lebanese nationality, is extremely wealthy, has access to a private jet on which he flew to the United Arab Emirates in March and has “deep and long-standing ties with countries who do not have extradition treaties with the United States “Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

A Trump spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Barrack’s arrest.

Matthew Herrington, an attorney for Barrack, told CNBC that his client was arrested in Los Angeles “despite the fact that we cooperated in this investigation from the start.”

A Barrack spokesperson said: “Mr. Barrack made himself available to investigators on a voluntary basis from the start. He is not guilty and will plead not guilty.

Barrack resigned as CEO of Colony Capital in 2020. He resigned as executive chairman of the company in April.

Federal prosecutors have been investigating Barrack’s alleged work on behalf of the UAE for at least two years.

One of the events that caught their attention was an energy policy speech Trump gave as a presidential candidate in May 2016.

The indictment accuses Barrack of “inserting language praising the United Arab Emirates” into the speech and “emailing a draft of the speech to [Al Malik] for delivery to senior officials in the United Arab Emirates. “

Over the next two years, prosecutors say, Barrack “sought and received direction and comment, including talking points, from senior officials in the United Arab Emirates regarding the national press appearances that Barrack used to promote. the interests of the United Arab Emirates “.

“During this period, Barrack never registered as a lobbyist for the UAE, as required by the Foreign Agent Registration Act,” the indictment reads.

The indictment says that in December 2016, a month after Trump was elected, Barrack attended a meeting with Grimes, Al Malik and senior officials of the UAE government, where he advised them to create a “wish list” of the US foreign policy items the UAE wanted to do. be accomplished during different periods in the new administration.

The indictment also states that in the following March Barrack and the other two men agreed to promote the candidacy of a privileged person by senior United Arab Emirates officials for the post of United States ambassador. in this country.

And in September 2017, Al Malik “contacted Barrack about the UAE’s opposition to a proposed Camp David summit to resolve an ongoing dispute between the State of Qatar, the UAE and others. governments in the Middle East, after which Barrack sought to advise the President of the United States against holding the Camp David summit, “the Department of Justice said in its statement. “The summit never took place.”

The United Arab Emirates, where Trump had trade relations before becoming president, established a key relationship with the United States under the Trump administration.

The United Arab Emirates signed the 2020 Abraham Accords, which took steps to normalize relations between a handful of countries in the Middle East, including Israel.

Last November, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the Trump administration would sell more than $ 23 billion in military equipment to the United Arab Emirates “in recognition of our deepening relationship. And “the nation’s need for advanced defense capabilities to deter and defend itself.” against increased threats from Iran.

A decades-long friend of Trump, Barrack became an early supporter of Trump’s presidential candidacy long before many on Wall Street saw the real estate developer as a serious White House candidate.

In the spring of 2016, when Trump started sweeping the primaries, Barrack and Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump convinced him he needed to hire a real campaign manager.

Barrack urged Trump to bring in Paul Manafort, a Washington regular and Republican lobbyist.

Manafort eventually rose to the post of Trump’s campaign chair before being forced to resign in August 2016 following reports of foreign lobbying he did on behalf of Ukrainian politicians. Manafort and Barrack hoped that their cooperation in 2016 would benefit everyone.

Barrack wanted to be named envoy to the Middle East in a future Trump administration. But after Trump won the White House, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner stepped in and Barrack didn’t get the job.

Manafort, meanwhile, had hoped Barrack’s Middle East connections would translate into lucrative business for Manafort’s lobbying practice.

But the multi-year investigation by Special Advocate Robert Mueller ended Barrack and Manafort’s hopes for top positions in Trump’s White House.

Questions about Barrack’s foreign lobbying first surfaced during Mueller’s investigation, prosecutors said.

By the end of his investigation, Mueller had referred a total of 14 criminal cases to prosecutors, most of which remain sealed to this day.

In 2018, Manafort was convicted by a jury of eight crimes related to foreign lobbying and tax evasion. He served just under two years in prison and was released in June of last year.

Trump then pardoned Manafort shortly before leaving the White House.

Correction: Paul Manafort was convicted of eight felonies in 2018. An earlier version distorted the year.

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