Tom Barrack, a friend of the former president that of Donald Trump who was chairman of its inaugural committee, took the witness stand in his own defense in Brooklyn federal court in New York on Monday to push back against allegations that he sought to take advantage of his connections to Trump by acting as an unregistered foreign agent for the United Arab Emirates.
Barrack, a billionaire from California, testified that his private equity fund, Colony Capital, was doing big business with other Middle Eastern countries besides the United Arab Emirates, including Qatar and Kuwait.
Asked by his lawyer whether he could have agreed to act as agent for a single investor, Barrack said it would have been “impossible” because it would have embittered other investors in his multi-billion fund. dollars, giving them the impression that “if you do it for them, you won’t do it for us.”
He also answered questions about his decades-long friendship with Trump, whom he called “smart, instinctively brilliant and tougher than anyone I’ve ever known.” Barrack said the relationship ended up being “disastrous” for him professionally. Asked to support this characterization, Barrack replied, “I’m sitting with you all today.”
Barrack said he had high hopes of being able to influence Trump’s views on Middle East policy and that Trump would tone down some of his divisive language after taking office. “I thought he would transition, that rhetoric. … The style was something that I and others didn’t appreciate,” Barrack said. “I thought he was just going to change.”
Barrack said when Trump failed to recall his tongue, his publicly traded company paid the price for its public ties to him. “Public stock owners vote with their feet,” he said. “It was a nightmare.”
Barrack, 75, is accused of acting as unregistered foreign agent and lie to the FBI. Prosecutors allege he used his friendship with Trump to “illegally provide” UAE government officials with access to the president and senior administration officials, then lied to federal agents about his actions.
Prosecutors largely built their case against Barrack and his former aide, Matthew Grimes, by showing jurors hundreds of their text messages and emails with an Emirati businessman named Rashid Al Malik, whom prosecutors described as their intermediary for relations with Emirati officials.
The posts showed Emirati officials commenting to Barrack on what he should say in TV interviews and what Trump should say on energy policy in a 2016 campaign speech.
Prosecutors said UAE officials also pressed Barrack for details on who Trump would choose for various high-level positions, including director of the CIA and positions at the State and Security Departments. defense.
Barrack’s lawyers said he was his own man and doing what he thought was right – not acting as an Emirati agent.
On the witness stand, Barrack detailed an April 2016 meeting he had with a sheikh who was also the UAE’s national security adviser. Prosecutors said the meeting was the start of the foreign agent scheme.
Barrack said the sheikh, Tahnoun bin Zayed, had been concerned about Trump’s public appeal as a candidate for a prohibited for muslims entering the United States “He said this ban on Muslims was very confusing,” Barrack said. He said he reassured the sheikh that Trump was “smart” and “dedicated to stopping terrorism, but he could use some input from the Middle East”, and that he told the sheikh “I think you would be surprised if you had this dialogue with him directly.”
He said his meeting with the sheikh was not secret, saying he discussed it with Colony Capital officials and with Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and campaign manager Paul Manafort. A meeting with Trump and the sheikh never happened.
Barrack was also asked about an email he sent to the sheikh after their first meeting, which he signed, “At your service.” “It’s a salutation that I use to be polite,” Barrack said, showing the jury an email with similar wording he had sent to the CEO of Guess.
Barrack testified the same day his lawyers asked the judge to acquit him before the case went to the jury because the government “has not demonstrated that Mr. Barrack ever entered into an agreement to serve under direction or control of the United Arab Emirates”.
“Even viewed in the light most favorable to the government, the evidence only shows that the ‘UAE’ sometimes asked Mr. Barrack to do something, or to consider doing something, and Mr. Barrack then decided by himself whether he would or not,” they said.
In their opening arguments on September 21, Barrack’s lawyers said he had broken with the United Arab Emirates over a blockade against Qatar – a claim backed by the former Treasury secretary. Steven Mnuchin, who testified on Barrack’s behalf last week. He said Barrack had shoot to persuade Trump to support Qatar in a blockade of the United Arab Emirates.
Trump came to Barrack’s defense on social media on Sunday evening, calling him “a highly respected businessman whose DREAM was to see PEACE IN THE MIDDLE EAST, a very good and noble thing.”
Trump said the “armed” Justice Department “accused him of being a foreign agent of the UAE, which I don’t believe he was.”
“He NEVER told me about ‘speech’ and what to say about it,” Trump added in his Truth Social post. “He is being unjustly persecuted just because he is a ‘Trump’ supporter.”