NEW YORK (TBEN) – When Donald Trump ran for president in 2016, a California billionaire named Tom Barrack got him into the mix.
The pair had been close friends for decades before Barrack emerged as an informal campaign adviser. He later became chairman of Trump’s inaugural committee.
The problem, federal prosecutors say, is that at the same time, Barrack was also secretly working as an agent for the United Arab Emirates, an energy-rich ally of the US. The charge has brought the defendant to federal court in Brooklyn. The trial is expected to highlight his relationship with Trump, and how Barrack sought to use that relationship to protect the UAE’s interests and provide information to the UAE.
Before being indicted, Barrack attracted attention by raising $107 million for Trump’s inaugural celebration after the 2016 election. The event came under scrutiny, both for its lavish spending and for attracting foreign officials and businessmen. who wanted to lobby the new government.
U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan and attorneys are expected to complete jury selection Wednesday morning. Opening statements would follow.
The judge has asked potential jurors who expressed anti-Trump sentiments if they could set them aside and remain neutral. Some were fired when they said they couldn’t.
During his interrogation, the judge told prospective jurors that they may be hearing testimonies from former Trump executives, and perhaps even from Trump himself.
The 75-year-old barracks — who was arrested last year and released on $250 million bail — has pleaded not guilty to charges of acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign government, obstruction of justice and misrepresentation. explanations.
The Los Angeles-based private equity manager has been a key figure in UAE investments in a technology fund and real estate totaling $374 million. Prosecutors say that, while nurturing those business deals, Barrack helped UAE leaders influence Trump during his presidential campaign and after he was elected.
Those efforts include drafting a speech for Trump praising a member of the country’s royal family, relaying information to the Emirates about how senior US officials felt about a boycott of Qatar, and promising the UAE’s best interests. if he were to be appointed an ambassador or envoy to the Middle East.
Such an appointment “would give ABU DHABI more power!” Barrack wrote in a report obtained by federal prosecutors, referring to the UAE’s capital raising tens of billions of dollars in equity funds from its oil and gas reserves.
The US government is trying to provide evidence during the trial that Barrack was in close contact with Ali al-Shamsi, the director of the UAE’s national intelligence agency.
“Al Shamsi was one of the key UAE government officials with whom the defendants communicated as part of the indicted settlement, especially given his high role in the UAE’s intelligence operations, and testimonies about his role and responsibilities are central to this case ,” prosecutors wrote. in court papers.
The defense has tried to rule out evidence of Barrack’s lavish lifestyle, arguing in court documents that it would invite the jury to convict Barrack “on the basis of inappropriate emotional appeals and creates a significant risk of class bias.”
Barrack has denied any allegation. His lawyers said his contacts with the Emirates were not a secret and had been disclosed to the Trump campaign and administration. He told reporters as he left the courthouse on Tuesday that watching the jury selection process gave him confidence that he will be acquitted.
“It’s a great system,” he said.