SM Trump Supporter Arrested
July 29, 2021
(AP) The chairman of former President Donald Trump's 2017 inaugural committee was arrested Tuesday on charges alleging he secretly conspired to influence U.S. policy to benefit the United Arab Emirates, even while he was seeking a position as an American diplomat.
Tom Barrack, 74, of Santa Monica, California, was among three men charged in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, with acting as unregistered foreign agents as they tried to influence U.S. policy on the UAE's behalf while Trump was running in 2016 and later while he was president.
The indictment goes to the heart of the U.S.' longtime close relationship with the UAE and directly ties its de facto ruler, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, to Barrack's charges.
Besides conspiracy, Barrack was charged with obstruction of justice and making multiple false statements during a June 2019 interview with federal agents.
Also charged in a seven-count indictment were Matthew Grimes, 27, of Aspen, Colorado, who is a former executive at Barrack's company, and Rashid al Malik, 43, a businessman from the United Arab Emirates who prosecutors said acted as a conduit to that nation's rulers.
One of Trump's close personal friends for decades, Barrack is the latest in a long line of the former president's associates to face criminal charges, including his former campaign chair, his former deputy campaign chair, his former chief strategist, his former national security adviser, his former personal lawyer and his company's longtime chief financial officer.
Barrack and Grimes were arrested in Southern California while al Malik was at large, believed to be living somewhere in the Middle East, authorities said. In court papers, prosecutors said al Malik was living in Los Angeles for years before fleeing the U.S. three days after an April 2018 interview by law enforcement. The UAE, which hosts thousands of U.S. troops and aircraft on the Arabian Peninsula, did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday on the indictment.
At an initial hearing in Los Angeles federal court, Barrack's lawyer, Ronak D. Desai, agreed that his client could remain detained until a hearing next Monday after prosecutors submitted written arguments saying he should be denied bail as a risk to flee.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Patricia Donahue called Grimes a "serious risk of flight" and also ordered him detained pending a hearing Monday.
Attorney Michael Freedman, representing Grimes, said his client had no criminal history, no longer worked for Barrack's company and doesn't have the access investigators allege he once had.
"He is a fairly low-level individual in all of this," Freedman said.
Neither man entered a plea.
Barrack raised $107 million for Trump's inaugural celebration, which was scrutinized both for its lavish spending and for attracting numerous foreign officials and businesspeople looking to lobby the new administration.
While the indictment made no allegations of wrongdoing by the inaugural committee, or by Trump - who was referenced only as "the Candidate," the "President-Elect" and "the President" - it said Barrack boasted that he had been a 30-year partner of Trump and could help the UAE gain U.S. influence.
"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," Acting Assistant Attorney General Mark Lesko said.
Barrack has denied wrongdoing.