Trump’s top adviser arrested, charged with secret lobbying for UAE – Mother Jones


Tom Barrack, a longtime friend and adviser to former President Donald Trump, was arrested Tuesday and charged with violating foreign lobbying laws by using his access to Trump to advance UAE interests.

The Justice Department also alleges that Barrack, a billionaire who runs a real estate investment company called Colony Capital and who chaired Trump’s inaugural committee in 2017, obstructed justice and made false statements in an interview on June 20, 2019 with federal agents. Two other men – a Barrack employee named Matthew Grimes and an alleged UAE agent Rashid al-Malik Alshahhi – also face charges related to violations of foreign lobbying laws.

“The defendants, using their positions of power and influence during a presidential election year, have engaged in a conspiracy to illegally advance and promote the interests of the United Arab Emirates in this country, in flagrant violation of their obligation to inform the Attorney General of their activities and in violation of the right of the American people to know when a foreign government seeks to influence the policies of our government and our public opinion, ”said Jacquelin Kasulis, the American lawyer by interim for the Eastern District of New York, where the charges were laid.

“Mr. Barrack made himself readily available to investigators from the start,” a Barrack spokesperson said. “He is not guilty and will plead not guilty.”

In a press release, prosecutors said that while Barrack advised the Trump campaign in 2016 and then the Trump White House, he maintained behind-the-scenes communications with UAE leaders and worked to promote their agenda in Washington. . Some of this conduct occurred as Barrack sought unsuccessfully to be appointed to a high-level position in the Trump administration, including a post of special envoy to the Middle East. In an April 12, 2017 text message to Alshahhi, Barrack, appearing to seek support from the United Arab Emirates, said his appointment “would give Abu Dhabi,” the Emirati capital, “more power.” “Ideal for you!” Barracks added.

The Justice Department has not explained why Barrack worked for the UAE, but he has long-standing business ties in the Middle East. the New York Times, who reported on the foreign lobbying investigation into Barrack in 2019, noted that between Trump’s appointment and the end of June 2019, Colony Capital received approximately $ 1.5 billion in investments and other transactions from the Emirates Arab States and their close ally, Saudi Arabia. This included $ 474 million in investments from sovereign wealth funds managed by the Saudi and Emirati governments. Early in the Trump administration, Barrack also pushed for a nuclear deal with Saudi Arabia that would likely have to bypass U.S. laws restricting the transfer of nuclear technology – and that project could well have benefited Barrack’s business.

In Barrack and the others’ indictment, the Justice Department lists several actions Barrack took that it said violated foreign lobbying law. These include:

  • In May 2016, Barrack inserted praising language for the United Arab Emirates into a campaign speech Trump was about to deliver on U.S. energy policy and emailed a draft of the speech to Alshahhi. for transmission to senior officials in the United Arab Emirates.
  • In 2016 and 2017, Barrack and the other defendants “received instructions and comments, including talking points, from senior United Arab Emirates officials regarding the national press appearances that Barrack used to promote UAE interests. United Arabs “. After an appearance in which Barrack praised the UAE, Barrack emailed Alshahhi: “I made it …
  • In December 2016, Barrack attended a meeting with Grimes, Alshahhi and senior United Arab Emirates government officials, where he advised them to create a “wish list” of United States foreign policy items. that the UAE wanted to achieve at the start of the Trump administration. They then delivered such a list.
  • Barrack and Grimes “acquired a dedicated cell phone and installed a secure messaging application to facilitate Barrack’s communications with senior officials in the United Arab Emirates.”

Barrack first met Trump in 1985 when Barrack sold part of a department store chain to Trump. In 1987, when Barrack was working for billionaire Robert Bass, owner of New York’s famed Plaza Hotel, he negotiated a deal to sell the property to Trump, whose office despised the hotel, for $ 407 million. This turned out to be a bad deal for Trump, who lost ownership a few years later.

Barrack has been a key player in Trump’s world. He helped Trump land the government contract that would allow him to take over the historic Old Post Office building in downtown Washington, DC, and turn it into an upscale luxury hotel that would become a clubhouse for local people. Republican politicians, lobbyists and foreign dignitaries. hoping to win Trump’s favor during his presidency. Trump submitted a bid for the contract which competitors said was ridiculously high, but Trump had strong financial backing: Barrack’s Colony Capital had pledged to fund the project. Shortly after Trump was awarded the contract, Barrack pulled out, leading some competitors to complain that Trump had pulled a bait and a switch. Trump borrowed $ 160 million from Deutsche Bank for the project.

Barrack also helped finance Jared Kushner’s debt on a skyscraper at 666 Fifth Avenue in New York City. As the New York Times reported: “Barrack was among a group of lenders who agreed to reduce Mr. Kushner’s obligations to keep him from going bankrupt. He recommended that Trump hire Paul Manafort to help run the 2016 campaign. During the campaign, Barrack attempted to arrange a secret meeting between Manafort and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia. (A scheduling conflict prevented the meeting from taking place.)

It was already widely known that Barrack essentially served as Trump’s key contact in the Middle East. “Who is behind Trump’s ties to Arab princes? A billionaire friend ”, we read in a New York Times big title. In 2016, Barrack wrote to the UAE Ambassador to Washington: “I would like to align in Donald’s mind the UAE-Saudi Arabia bond that we have already started with Jared. “

The Trump groundbreaking committee that Barrack chaired – which raised an unprecedented sum – is currently under investigation by the Washington, DC Attorney General for allegedly making around $ 1 million in payments allegedly abusive at the Trump Hotel. During a deposition in the case, Barrack made statements about the involvement of Trump Organization executive Allen Weisselberg in reviewing the finances of the inauguration committee, which were contradicted by evidence and other testimonials.

The indictment describes Barrack as a wheel dealer who exploited behind-the-scenes diplomacy and his influence with Trump to serve the interests of the UAE government and his own businesses. “Today’s indictment confirms the FBI’s unwavering commitment to rooting out individuals who believe they can manipulate the system to the detriment of the United States and the American people,” said Deputy Director Calvin Shivers of the United States. FBI Criminal Investigation Division.

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