Tom Barrack, a friend of former President Donald Trump who served as his inaugural committee chair, took the stand in his own defense in New York federal court in Brooklyn on Monday to oppose charges he was trying to cash in on his ties to the United States. – then president by acting as an unregistered foreign agent for the United Arab Emirates.
Barrack, a California billionaire, testified that his private equity fund, Colony Capital, did major business with countries in the Middle East other than the UAE, including Qatar and Kuwait.
Asked if he could have agreed to act as the agent of just one investor, Barrack said that would be “impossible” because it would sour other investors in his multi-billion dollar fund, giving them the impression that “if you them, you’re not going to act for us.”
He also answered questions from his attorney about his decades-long friendship with Trump, a relationship he said ended up being “disastrous” for him. When asked for an example, Barak said, “I’m sitting with all of you today.”
Barrack said he had high hopes that he could influence Trump’s view of Middle East policy, and that Trump would sow some of his divisions after taking office. “I thought he was going to switch, this rhetoric … the style was something that I and others didn’t appreciate,” Barrack said. “I thought he would just change.”
When Trump did not reverse his language, Barrack said his publicly traded company paid the price for his public ties to the president. “Owners of public shares vote with their feet,” he said. “It was a nightmare.”
Barrack, 75, is accused of acting as an unregistered foreign agent and lying to the FBI. Prosecutors allege he used his friendship with Trump to “illegally” allow UAE government officials access to the then president and senior administration officials, then lied to federal agents about his actions.
Prosecutors largely built their case against Barrack and his former assistant, Matthew Grimes, by showing jurors hundreds of their text and email messages to an Emirati businessman named Rashid Al Malik, whom prosecutors have described as their go-between for transactions with Emirati officials.
The posts showed Emirati officials giving Barrack feedback on what he should say in TV interviews and input on what Trump should say about energy policy in a 2016 campaign speech.
Prosecutors said UAE officials also pressed Barrack for details about who Trump would choose for various high-level positions, including CIA director and in the ministries of foreign affairs and defense.
Barrack’s lawyers have said their client is his own husband and did what he thought was right – not act as an Emirati agent.
In a lawsuit filed Monday, Barrack asked the judge to acquit him before the case goes to jury because the government “has failed to demonstrate that Mr. Barrack ever entered into an agreement to serve under the direction or control of the UAE Even viewed in the most favorable light for the government, the evidence only shows that the ‘UAE’ sometimes asked Mr. Barrack to do something, or consider doing something, and Mr. Barrack then decided for himself whether he it would or wouldn’t.”
In their opening arguments on Sept. 21, Barrack’s lawyers noted that their client broke with the UAE over a blockade against Qatar – a claim supported by the former finance minister. Steven Mnuchin, who testified on behalf of Barrack last week. He said Barrack had pushed him to convince Trump to support Qatar in a blockade over the UAE.
Trump took to social media in defense of Barrack Sunday night, calling him a “highly respected businessman whose DREAM was to see PEACE IN THE MIDDLE EAST, a very good and noble cause.”
Trump said the “armed” Justice Department “accused him of being a UAE foreign agent, which I don’t believe he was.”
“He NEVER spoke to me about ‘speech’ and what to say on this subject,” Trump added in his Truth Social post. “He is being unfairly prosecuted just because he is a supporter of ‘Trump’.”