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 illegally operating Trump on behalf of the United Arab Emirates.
Barrack, who was charged with two other men in a seven-fold indictment in Brooklyn, New York federal court, served as chairman of Trump’s 2017 charter fund.
The Santa Monica, California resident, along with the other defendants, is charged with clandestinely advancing the interests of the United Arab Emirates on orders from senior officials in that country by influencing the foreign policy positions of Trump’s 2016 campaign and then the foreign policy positions of the US government during Trump’s presidency through April 2018.
Barrack, who never registered with the US government as an agent for the UAE, is also charged with obstruction of justice and providing several false claims during an interview with federal police officers in June 2019.
The indictment states that Barrack, 74, was informally advising American officials on Middle East policy during the indictment period and was also seeking appointment to a senior role in the U.S. government, including serving as special envoy for the Middle East.
The evidence against Barrack includes thousands of emails, text messages, iCloud recordings, flight records and social media records, prosecutors said separately on a sticky note.
Prosecutors said the “evidence for [Barrack’s] Guilt is overwhelming in this case. “
Prosecutors also said that Barrack had also met and assisted senior leaders of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which is a close ally of the UAE, and that he had provided “UAE government officials” with sensitive, non-public information about developments within the government. including information on the positions of several senior US government officials in relation to the blockade of Qatar carried out by the UAE and other Middle Eastern countries. ‘ “
Charged with Barrack are Matthew Grimes, 27, of Aspen, Colorado, and a 43-year-old UAE citizen, Rashid Sultan Rashid Al Malik Alshahhi, who remains at large.
Grimes, who worked directly for Barrack at Barrack-founded private equity firm Colony Capital, was arrested Tuesday in California.
Grimes has a “close personal relationship” with Barrack, has made more than 50 international trips in Barrack’s private plane and lists Barrack’s $ 15 million home in Aspen as his primary residence, prosecutors said in a court filing.
“Mentioned Barrack several times [Al Malik] as the UAE’s “secret weapon” to advance its foreign policy agenda in the United States, “a Justice Department press release said.
“To promote suspected criminal conspiracy and conduct, Barrack and Grimes, with the assistance of [Al Malik], purchased a dedicated mobile phone and installed a secure messaging application to facilitate Barrack’s communications with senior UAE officials, “the department said.
Deputy Attorney General Mark Lesko of the Department of Justice’s National Security Division said, “The defendants repeatedly exploited Barrack’s friendships and access to a candidate who was eventually elected president, high-ranking campaign and government officials, and the American media to advance policy goals a foreign government without revealing its true loyalty. “
Thomas Barrack, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer 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 problems faced by Japan. Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota / Bloomberg via Getty Images
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“The conduct alleged in the indictment is nothing less than betrayal of these officials in the United States, including the former president,” Lesko said in a statement.
Prosecutors in a memo requesting Barracks detention in Los Angeles pending his later bail hearing in Brooklyn said that in communicating with Al Malik, Barrack “designed his efforts to obtain an official position within the government to do it would enable it to serve the interests of the United Arab Emirates and not the interests of the United States. “
“When the defendant was seeking a position as US ambassador to the United Arab Emirates or special envoy for the Middle East, he informed Al Malik that such an appointment would” give ABU DHABI more power! “The memo said, referring to the capital of the United Arab Emirates.
“Al Malik agreed that if the defendant were successfully appointed to such an official position, it would result in the defendant delivering ‘more’ for the UAE and its efforts[v]very effective operation. ‘ The defendant agreed. “
The prosecutor found that Barrack, who is a Lebanese citizen, is extremely wealthy, has access to a private jet he flew to the UAE in March, and “has deep and longstanding ties to countries that do not have extradition treaties with the United States has “Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
A Trump spokeswoman did not respond immediately 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 “although we cooperated with this investigation from the start.”
A Barrack spokesman said: “Mr. Barrack volunteered to investigate from the start. He is not guilty and will plead not guilty.”
Barrack stepped down as CEO of Colony Capital in 2020. In April he stepped down as Executive Chairman of the company.
The Federal Prosecutor’s Office has been investigating Barracks’ 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 given by Trump as a presidential candidate in May 2016.
The indictment accuses Barrack of “including a language in which the UAE is praised” and “emailing a preliminary draft of the speech.” [Al Malik] for extradition to senior UAE officials. “
For the next two years, prosecutors claim that Barrack “sought and received instruction and feedback, including topics for discussion, from senior UAE officials in connection with national press appearances that Barrack has used to advance the interests of the UAE.”
“During that time, Barrack never registered as a lobbyist for the UAE as required by the Foreign Agents Registration Act,” the indictment said.
The indictment states that in December 2016, one month after Trump’s election, Barrack attended a meeting with Grimes, Al Malik and senior UAE government officials to advise them to create a “wish list” of US foreign policy, which the UAE wished to be carried out in different periods of time in the new administration.
The indictment also states that the following March Barrack and the other two men agreed to promote the candidacy of a person preferred by senior UAE officials for the post of US ambassador to that country.
And in September 2017, “Al Malik communicated with 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 other Middle Eastern governments against the holding of the camp -David Summit, “the Justice Department stated in its press release.” The summit never took place. “
The United Arab Emirates, with which Trump had business relationships before he took office, established itself as a key relationship with the United States in the region during the Trump administration.
The UAE signed the 2020 Abraham Agreement, which took steps to normalize relations between a handful of Middle East nations, 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 UAE “in recognition of our deepened relationships” and “in recognition of the nation’s need for advanced defense capabilities to deter and defend oneself ”. against increased threats from Iran. “
A friend of Trump for decades, Barrack appeared as an early supporter of Trump’s presidential run long before many on Wall Street viewed the property developer as a serious contender for the White House.
In the spring of 2016, when Trump started sweeping 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 longtime Washington and Republican lobbyist.
Manafort eventually rose to campaign chairman for Trump before resigning in August 2016 after reports of foreign lobbying on behalf of Ukrainian politicians. Both Manafort and Barrack hoped their collaboration in 2016 would be to the benefit of every man.
Barrack wanted to be appointed Middle East envoy in a future Trump administration. But after Trump won the White House, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner intervened, and Barrack didn’t get the job.
Manafort, meanwhile, had hoped that Barracks connections in the Middle East would lead to lucrative deals for Manafort’s lobbying practice.
But years of investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller put an end to Barrack and Manafort’s hopes of rising to prominent positions in Trump’s White House.
According to prosecutors, questions about Barrack’s foreign lobbyism first came to light during the investigation into Mueller.
By the end of his investigation, Müller had referred a total of 14 criminal cases to the public prosecutor, most of which are still sealed today.
In 2019, Manafort was found guilty by a jury of eight crimes related to foreign lobbying and tax evasion. He was imprisoned for almost two years and was released in June last year.
Trump later pardoned Manafort just before he left the White House.