WASHINGTON – Thomas J. Barrack Jr., a close friend of former President Donald J. Trump and one of his top fundraisers for the 2016 campaign, was arrested in California on Tuesday morning for not registering as as foreign lobbyist, obstruction. justice and lie to investigators.
A seven-count indictment accused Mr Barrack, 74, of using his access to Mr Trump to further the UAE’s foreign policy objectives and then lying about his activities during an interview in June 2019 with federal agents.
Federal prosecutors said Mr Barrack used his position as an outside adviser to Mr Trump’s campaign to publicly promote the UAE’s agenda while soliciting guidance, comment and talking points from senior UAE officials. United Arabs.
After Mr. Trump’s election, according to the indictment, Mr. Barrack continued to try to influence the administration’s policies in favor of the UAE. Washington will take in the first 100 days, the first six months, the first year and by the end of Mr. Trump’s tenure, prosecutors said.
Matthew Grimes, a former senior executive at Mr. Barrack’s company, and Rashid al-Malik Alshahhi, an Emirati businessman close to UAE leaders, have also been accused of acting as agents of the United Arab Emirates. United Arab Emirates without registering with the Ministry of Justice, as required. .
Ministry officials said the three 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 said, was one of those betrayed by Mr. Barrack’s cover-up. allegiance to a foreign government.
Federal prosecutors and the FBI have been investigating Mr. Barrack for almost three years.
The investigation was overseen by prosecutors in the Public Integrity Section of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. The charges were announced by this office, the Department of Justice’s National Security Division and the FBI
Matt Herrington, an attorney for Mr. Barrack, said: “Tom Barrack made himself available to investigators on a voluntary basis from the start. He is not guilty and will plead not guilty. Lawyers or representatives for the other two men could not be reached for comment.
Mr Barrack’s real estate and private equity firm, Colony Capital, has benefited from substantial investments from closely linked countries Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. In the three years since Mr. Trump’s appointment as President of the Republican Party in July 2016, Colony Capital has received approximately $ 1.5 billion from these two Persian Gulf countries through investments or d ‘other transactions. Of that amount, about $ 474 million came from sovereign wealth funds controlled by their governments.
Mr. Barrack stepped down as executive chairman of the company in March. The company was recently renamed DigitalBridge. According to a filing this month with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Mr. Barrack owns 10% of the company and is one of its directors.
Mr. Barrack has been friends with Mr. Trump since the 1980s. He helped raise funds for Mr. Trump’s first presidential campaign and led his transition team following Mr. Trump’s victory. But he was perhaps best known for leading Mr. Trump’s inaugural committee, which raised $ 107 million – the most money ever raised and spent to celebrate an inauguration.
Critics have claimed that the committee has become 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 stopped without a charge being laid.
The federal investigation into Mr. Barrack’s ties to foreign leaders, reported by The New York Times in July 2019, was a continuation of the investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the special adviser, into Russian interference. in the 2016 presidential election.
The work of the special advocate brought to light violations of the Foreign Agent Registration Act, known as FARA, and led to an increased effort by the Justice Department to enforce it. The law requires those who work for foreign governments, political parties, or other entities influencing US policy or public opinion to disclose their activities to the department.
Several former Trump aides who were indicted by the special advocate have admitted violating the statute in guilty pleas, including Paul Manafort, the former campaign chair, and Rick Gates, the vice chair. Mr Mueller referred Mr Barrack’s case to the US attorney’s office in Brooklyn, apparently because the allegations exceeded his investigative mandate.
In an incident reported by The Times and recounted in the indictment, Mr. Barrack drafted an insert for a May 2016 campaign speech Mr. Trump gave on energy policy. Mr Barrack sent a draft version of the speech to the Emirati businessman – referred to in court documents as Mr al-Malik – for him to show to UAE officials, according to the indictment.
After a media appearance, Mr Barrack emailed Mr al-Malik, boasting that he had “succeeded” for “the home team,” referring to the United Arab Emirates, according to the act of ‘charge. Prosecutors alleged that Mr Barrack installed a secure messaging app on a dedicated cell phone to keep those communications private.
At one point, prosecutors say, Mr Barrack pressured administration officials not to call a meeting at Camp David to resolve tensions between Qatar and the UAE and its ally, Saudi Arabia. He also organized meetings and phone calls between campaign and administration officials and UAE leaders, they said in court documents.
Barrack called al-Malik the UAE’s “secret weapon” to advance its foreign policy agenda, according to the indictment. But in his July 2019 interview with the FBI, according to the indictment, Mr. Barrack claimed that Mr. al-Malik never asked him to promote the interests of the UAE.
Like Mr. Barrack, Mr. Grimes was arrested on Tuesday. Mr. al-Malik remains “at liberty,” the justice ministry said.
Prosecutors have requested that Mr Barrack be transferred to New York and remain in detention, arguing he could flee the country. In a court document, they described him as “an extremely wealthy and powerful individual” with a private plane and close ties to the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon.
Sharon LaFraniere reported from Washington and William K. Rashbaum from New York. Maggie Haberman contributed reporting. Kitty Bennett contributed to the research.