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breaking newsTom Barrack, L.A. billionaire and Trump ally, charged with acting as agent of UAE

breaking news

Thomas J. Barrack, Jr., the chair of former President Trump’s inaugural committee and a prominent Southern California businessman and philanthropist, was arrested Tuesday on federal charges that he and others were part of a years-long effort to shape Trump’s foreign policy as a candidate and later president, all to the benefit of the United Arab Emirates.

Barrack, 74, and two other men were indicted in a New York federal court and accused of acting as unregistered foreign agents of the UAE starting about the spring of 2016. The indictment describes the trio as being “tasked” by four UAE officials: with influencing public opinion through media appearances; with molding the foreign policy positions of the campaign and later, the Trump administration; and developing “a backchannel line of communication” with the U.S. government.

Barrack was also accused of obstructing justice and making several false statements in a 2019 interview with federal agents.

Among Barrack’s actions to benefit UAE, according to the indictment, were publishing an Op-Ed in Fortune magazine that relied on “feedback” from foreign officials and making several media appearances that promoted the Gulf state’s policies. After a July 2016 television appearance where Barrack repeatedly praised the UAE, he messaged another man accused in the alleged conspiracy, boasting, “I nailed it….for the home team.”

The indictment alleges Barrack’s work had a direct impact on Trump’s behavior, including a 2016 speech that pledged work with “our Gulf allies” and a phone call Trump had while president with an unidentified UAE leader.

Barrack — who was arrested Tuesday morning at one of his business sites in Sylmar, according to an FBI spokeswoman — was due to appear later in the day at a downtown federal courtroom.

“Mr. Barrack has made himself voluntarily available to investigators from the outset,” said a statement issued by Barrack’s longtime spokesperson. “He is not guilty and will be pleading not guilty.”

Announcing the high-profile prosecution, federal officials said Barrack and others had conducted secret attempts to sway the actions and decisions of the Trump administration.

“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 Asst. Atty. Gen. Mark Lesko said in a release.

“The conduct alleged in the indictment is nothing short of a betrayal of those officials in the United States, including the former President.

A spokeswoman for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Barrack — who has a net worth of $1 billion, according to Forbes — has been friends with Trump for the last three decades and he planned the president’s inauguration in early 2017.

Barrack’s Los Angeles-based Colony Capital is a publicly held investment firm with $44 billion of assets under management that often bets on distressed assets. In 2008, for instance, Colony bailed out Michael Jackson when the late singer’s Neverland Ranch was on the brink of foreclosure.

The grandson of Lebanese Christian immigrants, Barrack also has business ties to the Mideast — and a deep knowledge of its politics and cultures — dating to the early 1970s, when as an attorney he worked on a project in Saudi Arabia and then spent the next four years there as an advisor to the royal family.

At Colony Capital, Barrack also has tapped various Mideast investors to help fund the firm’s operations.

With partners from Qatar, Barrack was part of an investment group that bought Miramax Films in 2010, later selling the studio to investors in Qatar. However, his dealings have been complicated since a blockade of Qatar started in 2017 by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

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