(CN) — An adviser and confidant of former President Donald Trump has been indicted along with two other men on charges of conspiring to act as unregistered foreign agents for the United Arab Emirates both when Trump was a candidate and when he was an incoming president.
Thomas Joseph Barrack, 74, a global investment adviser from Santa Monica, California, served as an informal adviser to Trump’s 2016 campaign and later served as chairman of the Presidential Inaugural Committee, according to federal prosecutors in Brooklyn.
In a seven-count indictment unsealed Tuesday, Barrack is charged with acting as an agent of a foreign government without notifying the attorney general, conspiring to act as an unregistered foreign agent, obstruction of justice and lying to the FBI.
Also charged were Matthew Grimes, 27, of Aspen, Colorado, and Rashid Sultan Rashid Al Malik Alshahhi, also known as Rashid Al Malik and Rashid Al-Malik, 43, a citizen of the UAE.
“Barrack served as the executive chairman of a global investment management firm headquartered in Los Angeles, and Grimes was employed at the firm and reported directly to Barrack,” according to the news release issued by the U.S Attorney’s Office in New York. “During the relevant time period, Alshahhi worked as an agent of the UAE and was in frequent contact with Barrack and Grimes, including numerous in-person meetings in the United States and the UAE.”
Courthouse News spoke to Barrack’s lawyer, Matthew Herrington of the Washington, D.C., firm of Paul Hastings, on Tuesday.
“Tom Barrack made himself voluntarily available to investigators from the outset,” Herrington said. “He is not guilty and will be pleading not guilty today.”
Courthouse News was not able to reach Grimes’ lawyers before press time.
Barrack and Grimes were arrested Tuesday morning in California and made initial appearances Tuesday afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Patricia Donahue at the federal courthouse in Los Angeles. Alshahhi remains at large. Donahue ordered that both Barrack and Grimes be held in custody in California pending a hearing on Monday regarding their potential release on bond. The government has asked that the two be transferred to the Eastern District of New York.
Prosecutors claim the defendants used “their positions of power and influence in a presidential election year” to promote the interest of the UAE in violation of their obligation to notify the federal government.
Their alleged actions also violated “the American people’s right to know when a foreign government seeks to influence the policies of our government and our public opinion,” said acting U.S. attorney Jacquelyn M. Kasulis of the Eastern District of New York in a statement. “These arrests serve as a warning to those who act at the direction of foreign governments without disclosing their actions, as well as those who seek to mislead investigators about their actions, that they will be brought to justice and face the consequences.”
After Trump’s election, Barrack served as an informal senior adviser to U.S. government officials regarding issues related to U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.
“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,” Mark J. Lesko, acting assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, said in the government’s news release.
Lesko characterized the defendants’ behavior as a “betrayal.”
“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,” Lesko continued.
The seven counts alleged in the indictment include charges that the defendants acted as an agent for a foreign government without prior notification to the U.S. Attorney General as required by law; conspiracy to act as foreign agents of the United States; obstruction of justice by attempting to impede the grand jury investigation; and four counts charging that Barrack made false statements to the FBI about the UAE’s efforts to get Barrack to assist the UAE.
The acting U.S. attorney in Brooklyn asked Judge Donahue in letters dated Tuesday to order that both Barrack and Grimes be removed to the Eastern District of New York.
The letter seeking Barrack’s transfer to New York says Barrack, “an extremely wealthy and powerful individual with substantial ties to Lebanon, the UAE, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” poses a “serious flight risk” based on the seriousness of the charged offenses and “the overwhelming evidence of his guilt,” his “vast financial resources and access to a private aircraft on which he regularly travels internationally, and his “deep and longstanding ties to countries that do not have extradition treaties with the United States.”
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