Tom Barrack, the chair of President Trump’s inaugural committee in 2017, was arrested Tuesday on charges of acting as an unregistered foreign agent who sought to influence policy on behalf of the United Arab Emirates, federal prosecutors announced.
Barrack and two other men — Matthew Grimes of Colorado and Rashid Sultan Rashid Al Malik Alshahhi of the UAE — were named in a seven-count indictment unsealed in a New York on Tuesday. The acts allegedly occurred between April 2016 and April 2018. Barrack was also charged with obstruction of justice and making false statements to federal law enforcement agents, based on an interview he gave to federal agents in June 2019.
Barrack was expected to make an initial appearance in federal court in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday afternoon.
Barrack is best known as a close Trump advisor, and had been friends with Trump for decades. He is a real estate investor who had dabbled in Hollywood. In 2010, he led a group that bought Miramax from Disney, along with the Qatar Investment Authority. He later sold the company to beIN Media, a Qatari TV broadcaster. In the wake of Harvey Weinstein’s downfall in 2017, Barrack also briefly explored throwing a financial lifeline to the Weinstein Co., before backing off.
Barrack now stands accused of using his status as a senior advisor to the Trump campaign to advance the interests of the UAE and provide intelligence to the foreign country, while failing to notify the Attorney General that their actions were taken at the direction of senior UAE officials. As an informal adviser to the Trump campaign in 2016, Barrack inserted language praising the UAE into one of Trump’s speeches about U.S. energy policy and emailed an advance draft of the speech to Alshahhi to deliver to senior UAE officials, according to the Department of Justice.
Throughout 2016 and 2017, the men sought and received direction and feedback from UAE official in relation to national press appearances made by Barrack. In one email Barrack sent to Alshahhi, he wrote “I nailed it… for the home team,” while referring to the UAE, according to the Department of Justice.
“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,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Mark Lesko of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “The conduct alleged in the indictment is 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.”