Sunday January 16th, 2022 5:01PM
3:00PM ( 1 day ago ) Weather Alert

Trump inaugural committee head accused of being UAE agent

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The chair of former President Donald Trump's 2017 inaugural committee was arrested Tuesday on charges alleging he secretly conspired to influence U.S. policy to benefit the United Arab Emirates, even while he was seeking a position as an American diplomat.

Tom Barrack, 74, of Santa Monica, California, was among three men charged in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, with acting as unregistered foreign agents as they tried to influence U.S. policy on the UAE's behalf while Trump was running in 2016 and later while he was president.

The indictment goes to the heart of the U.S.' longtime close relationship with the UAE and directly ties its de facto ruler, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, to Barrack's charges.

Besides conspiracy, Barrack was charged with obstruction of justice and making multiple false statements during a June 2019 interview with federal agents. Also charged in a seven-count indictment were Matthew Grimes, 27, of Aspen, Colorado, who is a former executive at Barrack’s company, and Rashid al Malik, 43, a businessman from the United Arab Emirates who prosecutors said acted as a conduit to that nation's rulers.

One of Trump’s close personal friends for decades, Barrack is the latest in a long line of the former president’s associates to face criminal charges, including his former campaign chair, his former deputy campaign chair, his former chief strategist, his former national security adviser, his former personal lawyer and his company’s longtime chief financial officer.

Barrack and Grimes were arrested in Southern California while al Malik was at large, believed to be living somewhere in the Middle East, authorities said. In court papers, prosecutors said al Malik was living in Los Angeles for years before fleeing the U.S. three days after an April 2018 interview by law enforcement. The UAE, which hosts thousands of U.S. troops and aircraft on the Arabian Peninsula, did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday on the indictment.

At an initial hearing in Los Angeles federal court, Barrack's lawyer, Ronak D. Desai, agreed that his client could remain detained until a hearing next Monday after prosecutors submitted written arguments saying he should be denied bail as a risk to flee.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Patricia Donahue called Grimes a “serious risk of flight” and also ordered him detained pending a hearing Monday.

Attorney Michael Freedman, representing Grimes, said his client had no criminal history, no longer worked for Barrack's company and doesn't have the access investigators allege he once had.

“He is a fairly low-level individual in all of this,” Freedman said.

Neither man entered a plea.

Barrack raised $107 million for Trump's inaugural celebration, which was scrutinized both for its lavish spending and for attracting numerous foreign officials and businesspeople looking to lobby the new administration.

While the indictment made no allegations of wrongdoing by the inaugural committee, or by Trump — who was referenced only as “the Candidate,” the “President-Elect” and “the President” — it said Barrack boasted that he had been a 30-year partner of Trump and could help the UAE gain U.S. influence.

“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," Acting Assistant Attorney General Mark Lesko said.

Barrack has denied wrongdoing.

“Mr. Barrack has made himself voluntarily available to investigators from the outset. He is not guilty and will be pleading not guilty," a spokesperson said.

Emirati officials were not identified by name either, though details in the indictment link back to Sheikh Mohammed. The crown prince also found himself entangled in special counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in America’s 2016 election.

Prosecutors said Barrack also provided UAE government officials with sensitive information about developments within the Trump administration — including how senior U.S. officials felt about a yearslong boycott of Qatar conducted by the UAE and other Middle Eastern countries.

“Worse, in his communications with Al Malik, the defendant framed his efforts to obtain an official position within the Administration as one that would enable him to further advance the interests of the UAE, rather than the interests of the United States,” prosecutors wrote in a letter seeking his detention. They noted that he has citizenship in the U.S. and Lebanon, a country with no extradition treaty with the U.S.

When Barrack tried to get Trump to appoint him as either the U.S. ambassador to the UAE or as special envoy to the Middle East, he wrote al Malik 'that any such appointment ‘would give ABU DHABI more power!’" prosecutors wrote.

Barrack served as an informal adviser to Trump’s campaign in 2016 before becoming the inaugural committee chair. Beginning in January 2017, he informally advised senior U.S. government officials on Middle East foreign policy, prosecutors said.

Bill Coffield, an attorney for al Malik — who was not in custody Tuesday — said his client had cooperated extensively with Mueller and that there was “nothing new here.” He said al Malik had simply tried to foster a good relationship between the country where he was born and the U.S., where he lived and worked for years, "both of which he loves.”

Noting that Forbes estimated Barrack's net worth at $1 billion in March 2013 and his access to a private plane, prosecutors called him “an extremely wealthy and powerful individual with substantial ties to Lebanon, the UAE, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” who poses a serious flight risk in a letter filed prior to his appearance.

They said the evidence against him was “overwhelming” and his risk of fleeing was higher because he’d traveled extensively, taking more than 75 international trips in the last five years, and regularly used private jets.

Authorities cited several specific instances when Barrack or others allegedly sought to influence U.S. policies, noting that, in May 2016, Barrack inserted language praising the UAE into a campaign speech Trump delivered about U.S. energy policy and arranged for senior UAE officials to receive an advanced draft.

They said he also agreed to arrange meetings and phone calls between senior UAE officials and Trump, reviewed a PowerPoint presentation to be delivered to senior UAE officials on how to boost their influence in the U.S. with his help and repeatedly tried to conceal his conduct, even denying he'd ever been asked by al Malik to help the UAE.

Throughout 2016 and 2017, Barrack and Grimes received talking points and feedback from senior UAE officials in connection with Barrack's national press appearances and communicated on a dedicated cellular telephone which had a secure messaging application to facilitate communications with senior UAE officials, prosecutors said.

They said that after one appearance in which Barrack repeatedly praised the United Arab Emirates, Barrack emailed al Malik, saying: “I nailed it ... for the home team,” referring to the UAE.

Prosecutors also asked that Grimes be held without bail, citing the seriousness of the crimes, overwhelming evidence of guilt, his access to Barrack's fortune and significant ties to countries without extradition treaties with the United States.

In his statement, Lesko characterized the alleged conduct as “nothing short of a betrayal of those officials in the United States, including the former President.”


Neumeister reported from New York. Associated Press writers Jill Colvin, Eric Tucker and Michael Balsamo in Washington; Jim Mustian, Michael R. Sisak and Tom Hays in New York; Stefanie Dazio in Los Angeles; James LaPorta in West Jefferson, North Carolina, and Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online President, White House, advisers News
© Copyright 2022
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
US opioid lawsuits on verge of settlements with 4 companies
The three biggest U.S. drug distribution companies and the drugmaker Johnson & Johnson are on the verge of a $26 billion deal to settle lawsuits brought by state and local governments across the country over the toll of prescription opioids, lawyers suing on behalf of local governments said
3:25PM ( 6 minutes ago )
Trump inaugural committee head accused of being UAE agent
The chair of former President Donald Trump’s 2017 inaugural committee was arrested Tuesday in California on charges alleging that he and others conspired to influence Trump’s foreign policy positions to benefit the United Arab Emirates
3:23PM ( 8 minutes ago )
Schools confront more polarization with mask rules for fall
School districts across the country have an important decision to make before fall classes begin: Will students be required to wear masks
2:48PM ( 43 minutes ago )
U.S. News
Israel vows to 'act aggressively' against Ben & Jerry's
Israel’s prime minister is vowing to “act aggressively” against the decision by Ben & Jerry’s to stop selling its ice cream in Israeli-occupied territories
3:13PM ( 18 minutes ago )
France probes use of NSO spyware; Macron a possible target
French newspaper Le Monde is reporting that the cellphones of French President Emmanuel Macron and 15 members of the French government in 2019 may have been among potential targets of surveillance by spyware made by the Israel-based NSO Group
3:10PM ( 22 minutes ago )
The Latest: Alabama vaccine rate 'self-inflicted' injury
A health leader says Alabama is suffering a “self-inflicted" wound from COVID-19, with hospitals filling up as the state trails the nation in vaccinations
3:05PM ( 26 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Big infrastructure bill in peril as GOP threatens filibuster
The bipartisan infrastructure deal senators brokered with President Joe Biden is hanging by a thread
2:02PM ( 1 hour ago )
Climate envoy says US, China must end world's 'suicide pact'
U.S. climate envoy John Kerry has called on China to join America in urgently cutting greenhouse gas emissions and described the international alliances that rebuilt Europe after World War II as a model for fighting climate change
1:17PM ( 2 hours ago )
The Latest: Fauci, Paul trade charges of lying about virus
A recurring clash between the government’s top infectious disease doctor and a U.S. senator has erupted again on Capitol Hill, with each accusing the other of lying
1:11PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
With pandemic worsening in US, surgeon general worried
The U.S. surgeon general says he's worried about what lies ahead with cases of COVID-19 increasing in every state, millions still unvaccinated and a highly contagious virus variant spreading rapidly
3:30PM ( 2 days ago )
Fired Tennessee vaccine leader rebuts claims point-by-point
Days after she was fired under pressure from Republican legislators, Tennessee’s former vaccinations director has issued a point-by-point rebuttal to a letter that recommended her removal
2:42PM ( 4 days ago )
Slovenia's term raises specter of EU's threat from within
Tiny Slovenia has taken charge of the world’s largest trading bloc, but its presidency got off to a rocky start
2:54AM ( 2 weeks ago )
AP Online President, White House, advisers News
US opioid lawsuits on verge of settlements with 4 companies
The three biggest U.S. drug distribution companies and the drugmaker Johnson & Johnson are on the verge of a $26 billion deal to settle lawsuits brought by state and local governments across the country over the toll of prescription opioids, lawyers suing on behalf of local governments said
3:25PM ( 6 minutes ago )
Schools confront more polarization with mask rules for fall
School districts across the country have an important decision to make before fall classes begin: Will students be required to wear masks
2:48PM ( 43 minutes ago )
Critics take aim at charitable money sitting in donor funds
Wealthy philanthropists have long enjoyed an advantageous way to give to charity: Using something called a donor-advised fund, they’ve been able to enjoy tax deductions and investment gains on their donations long before they give the money away
2:31PM ( 1 hour ago )
Buttigieg cheers space flight, says he'd go 'in a heartbeat'
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says he’s excited to see Jeff Bezos’ blast-off into space Tuesday
2:07PM ( 1 hour ago )
California synagogue shooting suspect pleads guilty
A 22-year-old man pleaded guilty Tuesday to murder and other charges in connection with a deadly shooting at a Southern California synagogue on the last day of Passover
1:25PM ( 2 hours ago )