Home USA News Trump associate Tom Barrack acquitted of foreign agent charges

Trump associate Tom Barrack acquitted of foreign agent charges

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NEW YORK (AP) — The chairman of Donald Trump’s inaugural committee, Tom Barrack, was acquitted on Friday of all charges in a federal trial that accused him of using personal access to the former president to secretly advance the interests of the United Arab Emirates.

A jury in Brooklyn deliberated for three days before finding Barak not guilty of acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign government, obstruction of justice and making false statements. Barak categorically denied the accusations.

Barack, a 75-year-old California billionaire, is an old friend of Trump and chaired the Republican’s inaugural committee. He was among a number of associates of Trump who were exposed to various criminal cases.

The verdict sparked a tearful celebration among Barak and his supporters, who took group photos in the courtroom.

“I’m very grateful for this system,” Barak said as he thanked the jury.

One of Barack’s aides, Matthew Grimes, was also acquitted.

Barak’s acquittal is the latest setback for the Justice Department, which has stepped up enforcement of laws governing foreign lobbying in recent years.

Last month, a judge dismissed a lawsuit that sought to force casino mogul Steve Wynn to register as a foreign agent because of his alleged lobbying at the behest of the Chinese government during the Trump administration.

In 2019, lawyer Greg Craig, a Democrat, was acquitted of making false statements to the Justice Department about work he did for the Ukrainian government.

Trump also pardoned two allies who were convicted of secretly lobbying for foreign interests in the US: former campaign manager Paul Manafort and fundraiser Eliot Broidy.

In closing arguments Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan Harris told jurors that Barak planned to be the Emirates’ “eyes, ears and voice” as part of a criminal conspiracy to manipulate Trump’s foreign policy.

At the same time, he used his channel connections to get the UAE to funnel tens of millions of dollars into an office building he was building and one of his investment funds, Harris added.

The prosecutor pointed to what he described as a continuous stream of sordid texts and other messages showing Barak was under the direction and control of Rashid al-Malik, a UAE businessman who acted as a conduit for the oil-rich Persian state’s rulers. Gulf state.

Barak “marketed himself as politically connected. The one who can open the door for the UAE. Someone who can offer access to Donald Trump. … He was going to be their inside guy,” Harris said.

Al Malik asked Barak “again and again to do things for the UAE”, he said.

Attorney Randall Jackson said Barak made no attempt to hide his relationship with Al Malik, someone in the network of business connections he cultivated in the Middle East. He also said it “makes no sense” that his client would try to infiltrate the Trump campaign on behalf of the UAE at a time when Trump’s chances of winning the presidency were considered remote.

“He participated in the campaign because he is loyal to his friends – perhaps to a fault,” said the lawyer.

Barak testified last week that “dozens” of people had asked him for help in getting a pardon from the former president. He also said he never sought a pardon for himself, even after learning he was under investigation.

When asked why, he replied, “I’ve never done anything wrong.”

Barak, who speaks Arabic and is of Lebanese descent, also described trying to arrange for Trump to meet with the UAE’s national security adviser, Sheikh Takhnoun bin Zayed al-Nahyan, and other officials from more moderate governments to persuade Trump to tone down his anti-Muslim stance. rhetoric.

“I was trying to find common ground to try to get him to back down from something he didn’t believe in,” he said.

The defense called former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to testify that there was nothing suspicious about his interactions with Barack about Trump’s position on relations with the UAE. Mnuchin described Barack as a friend who was among hundreds of businessmen who offered him “thoughts and advice” while he served in the Cabinet. In those discussions, “I would never share anything … that I thought was confidential,” he testified.

Before he was indicted, Barack gained attention by raising $107 million for the former president’s inauguration after the 2016 election. The event was scrutinized both because of the high cost and because of the attraction of foreign officials and businessmen who wanted to lobby the new administration.

Associated Press reporter Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this report.

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