Thomas Barrack, 74, appeared in federal court in New York and entered a not guilty plea, according to court records.
“As you’d expect, the system is working and it’ll take some time, but I think what you’ll all find is the evidence will be absolutely and concretely to prove that I’m 100 percent innocent,” Barrack told reporters as he left the courtroom.
Barrack, who was chair of Trump’s inaugural committee, was released on a $250 million bond.
A former aide, Matthew Grimes, also appeared, entered a not guilty plea, and was released on a $5 million bond.
Prosecutors say Barrack, Grimes, and a United Arab Emirates (UAE) national, Rashid Sultan Rashid Al Malik Alshahhi, acted as agents of the UAE between April 2016 and April 2018 despite not registering as foreign agents.
Barrack served as a backchannel to Trump for the UAE, with Alshahhi acting as an intermediary, according to court documents.
In one case, Barrack told Alsahhi via text that he had briefed Trump regarding a meeting with a senior official from Saudi Arabia, a close UAE ally. Barrack said he had forced the White House to “elevate” the official during the visit for “protocol purposes.”
Barrack and Grimes flew to the UAE in late 2016, about a month before Trump was sworn into office. Alshahhi attended the inauguration as Barrack’s guest.
Alshahhi fled the United States in 2018 shortly after being interviewed by federal agents.
The UAE Embassy in Washington and Trump have not responded to requests for comment.
In addition to being charged with acting as a foreign agent, Barrack faces charges for obstruction of justice and making false statements to FBI agents.
The next hearing is set for September 2.