Thomas J Barrack, billionaire friend of former US President Donald Trump, was arrested on Tuesday in Los Angeles for allegedly illegally lobbying the Trump administration on behalf of the United Arab Emirates.
The 74-year-old investment firm founder was also the chairperson of Trump’s inaugural fund in 2016 campaign, and was considered a top fundraiser and it was during this that he had apparently breached the law.
A spokesman for Barrack said he has planned to plead not guilty.
He is the latest ex-Trump official to face federal charges.
Barrack is charged with conspiracy, obstruction of justice and making multiple false statements to the FBI during a 2019 interview.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Mark Lesko said in a press release that “the defendants repeatedly capitalised 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 allegiance.”
Also charged are Matthew Grimes, 27 – who works for Barrack, and UAE citizen Rashid Sultan Rashid Al Malik Alshahhi, 43, according to the seven-page indictment.
Lesko said the conduct alleged in the indictment was “nothing short of a betrayal” of US officials including Trump himself.
The three men are accused of seeking to advance the interests of the UAE government both by influencing Trump officials and through media appearances.
In May 2016, Barrack is alleged to have inserted language praising the UAE into a Trump campaign speech. An advanced draft of the speech was allegedly sent to Alshahhi to pass on to UAE officials.
“After one appearance in which Barrack repeatedly praised the UAE, Barrack emailed Alshahhi, ‘I nailed it… for the home team,’ referring to the UAE,” the charging document states.
The men also allegedly agreed to promote the candidacy of a UAE-favoured individual to serve as US ambassador to Abu Dhabi.
In December 2016 – following the election – Barrack is also alleged to have advised Grimes and Alshahhi to create a “wish list” of US foreign policy items that the UAE wanted to see accomplished during the Trump administration.
While Barrack and Grimes were both arrested in California on Tuesday morning, Alshahhi remains at large.
With the announcement, Barrack becomes the latest Trump aide to face criminal charges, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former Trump Organization lawyer Michael Cohen.