Tom Barrack Trial: On Sept. 19, jury selection began for the criminal trial of billionaire Thomas J. Barrack Jr., a longtime Trump ally accused by the Justice Department last year of influencing Donald Trump’s foreign policy positions to benefit the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
A Justice Department (DOJ) investigation alleges that Tom Barrack improperly used his close relationship with Trump to advance the interests of the UAE under the direction of senior Emirati officials over two years. He faces charges of acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign government. If Tom Barrack trial succeeds, it may shed light on foreign powers’ efforts to influence the Trump Administration and how the Joe Biden Justice Department has stepped up its prosecutions of undisclosed foreign lobbying. Barrack has pleaded not guilty to all charges and denied any wrongdoing.
A criminal trial of the close Trump associate comes as the former President himself faces legal problems as he is being investigated for his alleged involvement in the riots of 2021. He is accused of illegally removing classified documents from the White House, and there are investigations into whether he inflated his assets and misled lenders. (Trump has denied any wrongdoing.)
Here’s what to know about the Tom Barrack Tria:
Who is Tom Barrack?
Barrack’s 75 fortune comes from real estate investments. DigitalBridge, formerly Colony Capital, was founded in 1991 by him as a private equity real estate firm.
Forbes reports that the firm currently manages $34 billion in assets, including $16 billion in distressed debt funds. Based on Forbes estimates, Barrack had a net worth of $1 billion at the end of 2013.
He has also been a longtime friend of Trump’s and an influential fundraiser. According to the Center for Public Integrity, Barrack raised $23 million for Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign through his Rebuilding America Now SuperPAC. In 2017, Barrack reportedly served as chairman of the inauguration committee and served as an informal advisor to Trump’s campaign during the inauguration.
Middle Eastern themes have often dominated Barrack’s work since he is the grandson of Lebanese immigrants. According to the Washington Post, he has done significant business in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the UAE and met longtime Republican operative Paul Manafort there. Trump reportedly hired Manafort for his 2016 presidential campaign after Barrack convinced him to do so decades earlier. (Mafort was convicted of tax and bank fraud in Virginia in 2018 and pleaded guilty to criminal charges related to his political consulting work in Ukraine that year.)
According to the New York Times, Barrack not only open communication between the Trump campaign and the Emiratis and Saudis in 2016, but he also held a “unique place” within the Trump world, demonstrating Trump’s transition from a Muslim ban candidate to one who is close to both countries.
Why is Tom Barrack on trial?
The Department of Justice unveiled a seven-count indictment in July 2021 alleging that Tom Barrack acted and conspired to act as an agent of the UAE between April 2016 and April 2018 along with his assistant Matthew Grimes and UAE official Rashid Al Malik Alshahhi, also known as Rashid Al Malik. Barrack was charged with obstruction of justice after allegedly making false statements during an interview with law enforcement in June 2019. Los Angeles Times reports that Barrack was briefly arrested in July 2021 and released on a $250 million bond.
Grimes and Barrack have pleaded not guilty to all charges. Unregistered agents of foreign governments, obstruction of justice, and lying to federal officials are among the leaders against Barrack. He is being tried along with Grimes, who is also tested for acting as an unregistered foreign agent.
Neither Grimes’ lawyer nor TIME responded to a comment request. As of April 2018, Al Malik has not been located, three days after speaking with the FBI. CNN could not get hold of him for comment.
The Times reported last year that lobbying for foreign governments is not illegal in the United States. However, foreign agents must register to work. According to DOJ, Barrack, Al Malik, and Grimes took advantage of Trump’s close relationship to advance the interests of the UAE and provide intelligence to it during his first and presidential campaigns and failed to inform the Attorney General that UAE officials allegedly directed their actions. Barrack allegedly inserted UAE-friendly language into Trump’s campaign speech in May 2016 and received talking points from UAE officials for his national interviews. Barrack allegedly emailed Al Malik after one press appearance in 2016 that he “nailed it… for the home team,” seemingly referring to the UAE.
A senior UAE official preferred a candidate to serve as United States Ambassador to the UAE, according to the DOJ, and Al Malik and Barrack discussed UAE opposition to a proposed Camp David summit to deal with a dispute between Qatar and the UAE in 2017 that Emirati officials did not want to take place. Summit never took place.
Barrack’s lawyers and the DOJ argued for weeks about what candidates could serve on the jury, leading to Monday’s jury selection. Bloomberg reported that Barrack and Grimes requested that over 30 prospective jurors be excluded from the trial. In his ruling on Sept. 2, Judge Brian Cogan allowed jurors who had “merely some dislike” for Trump to be considered. The Tom Barrack Trial is scheduled to last into October.