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Former Trump campaign adviser pleads not guilty to foreign lobbying charges

Tom Barrack was an informal adviser to the former president during his 2016 run and later chaired Trump’s inaugural committee.

BROOKLYN (CN) — The former campaign adviser to Donald Trump accused of acting as an unregistered foreign agent pleaded not guilty to all charges in Brooklyn federal court on Monday. 

Thomas Joseph Barrack Jr., 74, donned a navy blue suit, blue dress shirt and tie, and striped socks at his arraignment in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Sanket Bulsara. He waived a reading of his seven-count indictment, which charges him with working on behalf of the United Arab Emirates while Trump was both a candidate and president-elect, as well as obstruction of justice and lying to the FBI. 

Also indicted last week were Matthew Grimes, an employee of the Los Angeles-based global investment management firm where Barrack served as executive chairman, arrested on the same day as Barrack, and UAE citizen Rashid Sultan Rashid Al Malik Alshahhi, who is not in custody.

The two American co-defendants were released on similar conditions to those handed down by a California magistrate judge last week, including a hefty $250 million bond package for Barrack and a $5 million package for Grimes. 

Barrack’s bond is secured by $5 million in cash and three homes: those of his ex-wife, Rachelle Barrack; son, T.J. Barrack; and friend Jonathan Grunzweig, the chief investment officer of DigitalBridge, which succeeded the firm where Barrack was previously CEO and executive chair. Barrack also put up what prosecutors called a “substantial volume” of his own shares in DigitalBridge. 

Each of Barrack’s sureties appeared in court by video conference. Grimes’ bond was secured by his mother and brother, who also joined via video, and his father, who appeared in person. 

The blond-haired, blue-eyed Grimes, 27, nodded at his father, Brett Grimes, after he returned from answering the judge’s questions on the witness stand. Matthew Grimes is charged with two counts of acting and conspiring to act as an unregistered foreign agent. 

Prosecutors say Barrack met with senior UAE government officials and advised them to create a “wish list” of U.S. foreign-policy items they’d like to see accomplished in various increments of the Trump administration: the first 100 days, six months, one year and four years. 

In 2019, Barrack voluntarily met with FBI special agents, during which he denied that co-defendant Alshahhi had asked him to act on behalf of the UAE — one of several false statements he made, according to prosecutors. 

Barrack was reported to have a net worth of $1 billion in 2013, according to Forbes, though he dropped off the publication’s billionaire list the following year. 

On Monday, the magistrate judge warned Barrack that violating his bail conditions — which include GPS monitoring, surrendering all passports, and traveling only by road and commercial aircraft — would mean forfeiting his $250 million bond. 

“I believe that might wipe you out, sir,” Bulsara told Barrack. 

Bill Christeson, a self-described democracy activist, holds a sign outside of Tom Barrack's arraignment in Brooklyn on Monday. (Courthouse News photo/Nina Pullano)

Bulsara also instructed Barrack not to have any contact with his co-defendants, nor officials from the UAE or Saudi Arabia, and to notify pretrial services three days in advance of any travel plans. 

“This is not a ‘seek forgiveness’ condition,” Bulsara said. “It’s a ‘seek permission’ condition.’” 

Besides his already approved travel within the Central District of California and the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York — representing Brooklyn and Manhattan, respectively — Barrack will be allowed in the District of Colorado, permitting him to remain in his Aspen home pending trial. 

Following his arraignment, Barrack sent a statement to reporters through spokesman Tommy Davis. 

“Of course I am innocent of all these charges and we will prove that in court,” Barrack said in the statement. 

He went on to invoke the Statue of Liberty, noting that the iconic statue was 3 miles away in New York Harbor, “with a torch in her hand signifying enlightenment, welcoming the seven continents across the seven seas to bring to her the immigrant masses to give them tolerance, liberty and justice.” 

“That statue is made of steel with a patina of copper,” Barrack wrote. “We’re in the middle of a very heated moment and I can only tell you that the hardest steel is forged from the hottest fire.”

Prosecutors said they expect to begin producing discovery documents this week. 

Barrack is represented by attorney Matt Herrington of the Washington firm Paul Hastings. He will appear before U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan in September. 

Follow Nina Pullano on Twitter

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