Critics have claimed that the committee has become a hub for peddling access to foreign officials or business leaders, or those acting on their behalf, but investigations by several local jurisdictions into the committee’s activities stopped without a charge being laid.
The federal investigation into Mr. Barrack’s ties to foreign leaders was a continuation of the investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the special adviser, into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
The work of the special advocate brought to light violations of the Foreign Agent Registration Act, known as FARA, and led to an increased effort by the Justice Department to enforce it. The law requires those who work for foreign governments, political parties, or other entities influencing US policy or public opinion to disclose their activities to the department.
Several former Trump aides who were indicted by the special advocate have admitted to breaking the law in guilty pleas, including Mr. Manafort, the 2016 campaign chairman, and Rick Gates, the vice chairman. Mr Mueller referred Mr Barrack’s case to the US attorney’s office in Brooklyn, apparently because the allegations exceeded his investigative mandate.
According to the indictment, Mr. al-Malik was a key intermediary between Mr. Barrack and the Emirati leadership. In court documents, prosecutors said Mr. Barrack told State Department officials in 2017 that he did not know where Mr. al-Malik was from or whether he was affiliated with a foreign government. But privately, prosecutors said, Barrack has repeatedly referred to Mr. al-Malik as the UAE’s “secret weapon” to advance its foreign policy agenda with the campaign and the Trump administration.
After a media appearance, Mr Barrack emailed Mr al-Malik, boasting that he had “succeeded” for “the home team” – that is, the Emirates, according to the indictment. The two men have met personally on several occasions with high-level leaders of the Emirates and Saudi Arabia, including in May, August and December 2016, according to court documents.
Late Tuesday, a federal magistrate detained Mr. Barrack and Mr. Grimes, pending a bail hearing on Monday. Prosecutors had described Mr Barrack as a flight risk, citing his wealth, Lebanese citizenship, private jet and close ties to the Emirates and other Persian Gulf countries.