Tom Barrack, a private equity investor and former senior adviser to former President Donald Trump, was arrested Tuesday over illegal foreign lobbying he allegedly did on behalf of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) while Trump was campaigning for election in 2016 and during his presidency through April 2018.
Barrack served as chairman on Trump’s 2017 inaugural committee. He was issued a seven-count indictment in federal court in Brooklyn, New York. Prosecutors accused Barrack of exploiting his connections to the Trump White House to advance the foreign policy goals of the UAE. The Trump associate was also charged with obstructing justice and making false statements to federal law enforcement officials during an interview in June 2019.
The indictment alleged that the two other defendants, Matthew Grimes and UAE national Rashid Sultan Rashid Al Malik Alshahhi, used Barrack’s special status to “advance the interests of and provide intelligence to the UAE while simultaneously failing to notify the Attorney General that their actions were taken at the direction of senior UAE officials.” Grimes is a former employee of Barrack’s investment management firm.
Prosecutors claim the three defendants failed to disclose that they were acting in the capacity of foreign lobbyists to the U.S. attorney general as is required.
“The defendants repeatedly capitalized on 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 the policy goals of a foreign government without disclosing their true allegiances,” Mark Lesko, acting assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, commented in a statement. He added that the Department of Justice will crack down on enforcing prohibition of undisclosed foreign influence campaigns in the future.
Acting U.S. Attorney Jacquelin M. Kasulis for the Eastern District of New York echoed Lesko’s sentiments, saying, “As alleged, the defendants, using their positions of power and influence in a presidential election year, 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 notify the Attorney General of their activities and in derogation of the American people’s right to know when a foreign government seeks to influence the policies of our government and our public opinion.”
Barrack’s attorney, Matt Herrington, said in a statement that Barrack “made himself voluntarily available to investigators from the outset. He is not guilty and will be pleading not guilty today.”