Trump ally goes on trial for ‘light espionage’ and obstruction

Trump ally goes on trial for ‘light espionage’ and obstruction
Trump ally goes on trial for ‘light espionage’ and obstruction

Tom Barrack, a wealthy businessman who served as chairman of Trump’s presidential inaugural committee and adviser to his campaign, was indicted last year along with his aide Matthew Grimes and an Emirati official for allegedly acting as a secret conduit for the Gulf nation.

Barrack and Grimes allegedly conspired to capitalize on Barrack’s close relationship with Trump by promoting UAE interests through media interviews, advocating for a UAE-preferred candidate to serve as U.S. ambassador. in the country, helping UAE officials in their dealings with the White House, and pushing back on a proposed Camp David summit to resolve a dispute involving Qatar and the Gulf states. The summit never happened.

Barrack and Grimes have pleaded not guilty and deny any wrongdoing.

The Emirati, Rashid Al Malik, fled the United States in April 2018, three days after being questioned by the FBI. He remains free.

The lawsuit is expected to challenge the US government’s use of the Foreign Agents Act and comes as the Justice Department has stepped up its prosecution of undisclosed foreign lobbying and related activities.

Barrack and Grimes were charged with one count of conspiracy and one count of acting as foreign agents without notifying the Justice Department, under section 951 of the criminal code, which the officials of national security called it “light espionage”. They face a maximum of 10 years in prison if convicted.

Barrack was also charged with obstructing the grand jury investigation and six counts of making false statements during an FBI interview in June 2019. The obstruction charge carries a maximum of 20 years in prison.

Lawyers for Barrack and Grimes argued that prosecutors were trying to criminalize free speech and charged the men with a status normally reserved for spies.

“Mr. Barrack was never an agent of the UAE, and he did not obstruct or make any false statements. There is no basis to the charges against Mr. Barrack,” his lawyers wrote in a court filing.

The foreign agent case could focus on whether prosecutors can establish that Barrack and Grimes had an “agreement” to act at the “direction or control” of UAE officials.

Lawyers for Barrack and Grimes, who were 22 at the time, said their clients never had an agreement to work for the UAE.

“Although Section 951 has been around in one form or another for over a century, it has never before been used against someone in Mr. Grimes’ position. Never. There’s a good reason for that. The law, which targets spies and others engaged in criminal activity, does not apply to Mr. Grimes’ alleged conduct,” his lawyers wrote.

Former White House officials could testify

According to a court filing, two unidentified former White House officials could be called as witnesses by the prosecution or the defense teams.

The prosecution’s case is expected to be largely based on numerous text messages and emails sent between the three men between 2016 and 2018. The trial is estimated to last four weeks.

The testimony and evidence will revive names from Trump’s orbit, including campaign advisers Paul Manafort and Steve Bannon, son-in-law and former White House adviser Jared Kushner and former Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, according to reports. court documents.

The lawsuit comes as Trump is back in the spotlight, potentially announcing a presidential election in 2024 and facing numerous criminal investigations. Trump has denied any wrongdoing.

“I succeeded… for the home team”

According to the indictment, the alleged foreign agent scheme lasted from April 2016, during the presidential campaign, to April 2018, through Trump’s first year in office.

Prosecutors allege that in 2016, Barrack and Grimes received talking points from UAE officials for Barrack’s television appearances in which he promoted UAE interests.

After an appearance, Barrack emailed Al Malik, “I made it… for the home team,” not referring to the United States but to the United Arab Emirates, according to the charges.

In another case, prosecutors allege that in April 2017, Barrack told Al Malik that Barrack himself was being considered by Trump to become either US ambassador to the United Arab Emirates or special envoy to the Middle East. Barrack’s appointment to either position “would empower ABU DHABI!” he told Al Malik.

“It will be great for us,” Al Malik replied. “And make you deliver more. Very efficient operation.” Barrack replied, “And great for you!” Barrack was never appointed to either position.

Meanwhile, prosecutors say, Barrack secured $374 million for his California investment firm from two Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth funds. An investment tracker credited most of the investment to “Barrack Magic,” according to the indictment.

. tom barrack ally trump is judged for espionage light obstruction

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