Thomas J Barrack jnr, a close friend of former US president Donald Trump and one of his top 2016 campaign fundraisers, was arrested in California on Tuesday on federal charges of failing to register as a foreign lobbyist, obstruction of justice and false statements to investigators.
A seven-count indictment accused Mr Barrack (74), of using his access to Mr Trump to advance the foreign policy goals of the United Arab Emirates and then lying about his activities during a June 2019 interview with federal agents. Federal prosecutors said that Mr Barrack used his position as an outside adviser to Mr Trump’s campaign to publicly promote the UAE’s agenda while soliciting direction, feedback and talking points from senior UAE officials.
After Mr Trump was elected, the indictment said, Mr Barrack continued to try to influence the administration policies in favour of the UAE. At one point, he told senior UAE officials to give him a “wish list” of foreign policy moves they wanted Washington to take within the first 100 days, first six months, first year and by the end of Mr Trump’s term, prosecutors said.
Matthew Grimes, a former top executive at Mr Barrack’s company, and Rashid al-Malik Alshahhi, an Emirati businessman who is close to the UAE rulers, were also charged with acting as agents of the UAE without registering with the justice department, as required. Department officials said that the three men conspired to abuse Mr Barrack’s access to Mr Trump, his campaign and his administration from early 2016 to early 2018.
Mr Trump, they said, was one of those who were betrayed by Mr Barrack’s hidden allegiance to a foreign government. Federal prosecutors and the FBI have been investigating Mr Barrack for nearly three years. The inquiry was overseen by prosecutors in the public integrity section of the US attorney’s office for the eastern district of New York. The charges were announced by that office, the justice department’s national security division and the FBI.
Matt Herrington, a lawyer for Mr Barrack, said: “Tom Barrack has made himself voluntarily available to investigators from the outset. He is not guilty and will be pleading not guilty.”
Lawyers or representatives of other two men could not be reached for comment.
Mr Barrack’s real estate and private equity firm, Colony Capital, benefited from substantial investments from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, countries that are closely aligned. In the three years after Mr Trump became the Republican Party’s nominee for president in July 2016, Colony Capital received about $1.5 billion from those two Persian Gulf countries through investments or other transactions. Of that, about $474 million came from sovereign wealth funds controlled by their governments.
Mr Barrack stepped down as the firm’s executive chairman in March. The firm was recently renamed DigitalBridge. According to a filing this month with Securities and Exchange Commission, Mr Barrack owns 10 per cent of the firm and is one of its directors.
Mr Barrack ( 74), has been friends with Mr Trump since the 1980s. He helped raise money for Mr Trump’s first presidential campaign and ran his transition team after Mr Trump won. But he was perhaps best known for leading Mr Trump’s inaugural committee, which raised $107 million, the most money ever collected and spent to celebrate an inauguration.
Critics claimed the committee became a hub for peddling access to foreign officials or business leaders, or those acting on their behalf, but investigations by several local jurisdictions into the committee’s activities petered out with no charges filed.
The federal inquiry into Mr Barrack’s ties with foreign leaders, reported by The New York Times in July 2019, was an outgrowth of the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. – the New York Times