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Trump ally Tom Barrack used White House access to help foreign government, prosecutor says

Tom Barrack used his longtime friendship with Donald Trump to “illegally provide” UAE government officials with access to the then president and senior administration officials, and he did so to ” money and power,” prosecutors said Wednesday.

Barrack, a California billionaire, and his former aide Matthew Grimes “met and took instructions” from the United Arab Emirates over a two-year period from 2016, Assistant U.S. Attorney Hiral Mehta told jurors in federal court in Brooklyn.

Both men are on trial for acting as unregistered foreign agents. “They did it in the corrupt pursuit of money and power,” Mehta alleged in his opening statement during their criminal trial.

Barrack’s attorney, Michael Schachter, said his client was never under anyone’s control, dismissing accusations that Barrack was acting as a foreign agent as “nothing short of ridiculous”.

“He did things because he wanted to” and not because he was pressured to do so by a foreign government, Schachter said. He “is an innocent man”.

In court filings, prosecutors said the former president and Barrack had been friends for decades and UAE officials decided to take advantage of that relationship when Trump ran for president during the 2016 campaign cycle. .

At the request of UAE officials, Barrack used his friendship with Trump to insert language about the importance of working with “our Gulf allies” into a Trump campaign speech on energy in 2016 , Mehta told jurors.

When he chaired Trump’s inaugural committee, Emirati officials also pressed Barrack for details on who he would choose for various high-level positions, including director of the CIA and state departments. and Defense, the prosecutor said.

He also provided UAE officials with sensitive information, including internal discussions within the Trump administration regarding the UAE’s blockade of Qatar, Mehta said.

And because Barrack was helping the Emirati government, he was investing tens of millions of dollars in his private equity fund, the prosecutor added. When questioned by the FBI about his dealings with UAE officials and the actions he had taken, Barrack “started to lie” and “lied and lied again”.

Schachter argued that federal authorities were blowing up “insignificant and inconsequential acts”, including Barrack praising the UAE as an “important ally” during a TV interview. “Barack Obama said the same thing,” Schachter told the jury.

He also said the amount of money the country had invested in his client’s $40 billion fund was relatively small and that Barrack had supported Qatar’s position over that of the United Arab Emirates during the blockade. The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia blocked Qatar from 2017 to 2021. Trump tweeted approval of the blockade in 2017.

“He’s an honest man wrongfully accused of crimes he didn’t commit,” Schachter said.

Grimes’ attorney, Abbot Lowell, denied that his client knowingly acted as a foreign agent and argued that he was essentially a Barrack intern. Although Grimes set up appointments for Barrack, including with UAE officials, he did so at the request of his boss, Lowell said, adding that he would also get Barrack his coffee and drinks. smoothies and babysit her kids.

“All he was doing was his job in the United States, for his American company, for his American boss,” Lowell said.

The trial is expected to last about five weeks.

nbcnews

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