The chair of former President Donald Trump‘s inaugural committee in 2017 was arrested Tuesday on federal charges in Los Angeles for illegally lobbying on behalf of the United Arab Emirates during the 2016 campaign and later in the White House.
Thomas Barrack, 74, was hit with a seven-count indictment relating to trying to push the UAE’s agenda in the US and shape the foreign policy of the previous administration.
Barrack is the founder of the private equity firm Colony Capital though stepped down as the company’s chief executive in 2020, and in April resigned as executive chairman.
He is a close friend of Trump.
The chair of Donald Trump’s inaugural committee in 2017, Thomas Barrack, was on Tuesday arrested on federal charges in Los Angeles for illegally lobbying on behalf of the United Arab Emirates during his campaign
Barrack, 74, (pictured left at the 2017 inauguration) was hit with seven-count indictment relating to trying to push the UAE’s agenda and shape the foreign policy of the administration
Barrack’s attorney, Matthew Herrington, did not immediately return an email from the Associated Press seeking comment.
Barrack was due to appear at an initial appearance in federal court in Southern California.
Barrack was charged with conspiracy, obstruction of justice and making multiple false statements during a June 20, 2019 interview with federal law enforcement agents.
The charges were brought in Brooklyn.
Additionally, Matthew Grimes, 27, of Aspen, Colorado, and Rashid Sultan Rashid Al Malik Alshahhi, aka Rashid Al Malik, 43, a UAE national, are accused of acting and conspiring to act as agents of the UAE between April 2016 and April 2018, the Department of Justice said in a release.
‘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 in a release.
Lesko characterized the alleged conduct as ‘nothing short of a betrayal of those officials in the United States, including the former President.’
‘Through this indictment, we are putting everyone – regardless of their wealth or perceived political power – on notice that the Department of Justice will enforce the prohibition of this sort of undisclosed foreign influence,’ the statement said.
In a letter to the LA-based judge, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York called Barrack a ‘serious flight risk’ since he has access to private aircrafts, and asked for steep bail conditions.
In 2013, Forbes estimated that Barrack’s net worth was $1 billion.
In November, Barrack was deposed as part of a lawsuit out of the D.C. attorney general’s office that accused the Presidential Inaugural Committee and the Trump Organization of abusing non-profit funds to enrich the Trump family.
As chairman of the Presidential Inaugural Committee Barrack had hired Rick Gates – Paul Manafort’s No. 2 who was sentenced to jailtime for his Ukraine lobbying – to help run the inauguration.
D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine’s office said in a January 2020 statement announcing the lawsuit that an investigation found that Gates allowed the PIC, a non-profit, to enter contracts with the Trump hotel that was ‘at least twice the market rate.’
Former first lady Melania Trump’s former aide Stephanie Winston Wolkoff – who later wrote a tell-all about the first lady – warned Trump associates and family members that the pricing could be a problem.
‘Despite this warning, Gates allowed the PIC to enter into a contract with the Trump Hotel for four days of event space at a total cost of $1.03 million, an amount far above even the Hotel’s own internal pricing guidelines,’ the release from Racine’s office said.
Barrack had previously encouraged Trump to hire Manafort as his campaign chairman.
Barrack was also credited in a 2018 story by The New York Times with rehabilitating Trump’s image among ‘Arab princes’ whose feathers were ruffled when Trump, as a candidate in December 2015, announced a ‘Muslim ban.’
The story describes Barrack as a ‘fellow tycoon and a flattering courtier, a confidant and a power broker.’
Tom Barrack speaks to reporters in the lobby of Trump Tower on January 10, 2017, ten days before now former President Donald Trump’s inauguration