A business executive who chaired former President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee has been charged with acting as an agent for the United Arab Emirates (UAE), according to a newly unsealed court document.
Thomas Barrack, 74, the executive chairman of Colony Capital, is accused of promoting UAE interests in media appearances between 2016 and 2018 despite not being registered as a foreign agent.
Barrack was also charged with obstruction of justice and lying to FBI agents during a June 20, 2019, interview.
According to a July 16 indictment (pdf) unsealed on July 20, Barrack arranged a meeting between Rashid Sultan Rashid Al Malik Alshahhi, a UAE national, and Trump in 2017. Barrack publicly recommended Trump not get involved in the dispute between Qatar and other governments in the Middle East, including UAE.
Alshahhi, 43, and Matthew Grimes, 27, a Colorado resident who worked under Barrack, were also charged.
“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 of the Justice Department’s National Security Division said in a statement.
“The conduct alleged in the indictment is nothing short of a betrayal of those officials in the United States, including the former President. 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.”
“Today’s indictment confirms the FBI’s unwavering commitment to rooting out those individuals who think they can manipulate the system to the detriment of the United States and the American people,” added Assistant Director Calvin Shivers of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.
The docket for the case is still under seal, making it unclear whether the defendants have retained lawyers.
Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
According to court documents, Barrack informally advised Trump in 2016 before serving as chairman of his inaugural committee. Barrack went on to informally advise Trump administration officials on Middle East policy.