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Trump friend sought millions in UAE investments while lobbying on UAE's behalf, prosecutors say

A superseding indictment adds two new counts of making false statements to investigators to charges last year that Thomas Barrack was an unregistered lobbying for the UAE.
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Thomas Barrack, a longtime friend of former President Donald Trump and the chair of his 2017 inaugural committee, sought hundreds of millions of dollars in investments from the United Arab Emirates at the same time he was illegally lobbying the Trump administration on behalf of the UAE, according to a superseding indictment filed Tuesday in federal court in New York.

The superseding indictment, which adds two charges of making false statements to investigators to Barrack’s 2021 indictment, provides new allegations about how Barrack, 75, lied to federal investigators when he denied having facilitated phone calls between Trump, then the president-elect, and two Emirati officials in 2016. 

Last year Barrack and two alleged co-conspirators were accused of “acting and conspiring to act as agents” of the UAE from April 2016 to April 2018 without registering as foreign agents. Barrack was also charged with obstruction of justice and making multiple false statements to federal law enforcement agents.

Barrack pleaded not guilty to the original seven criminal counts last year and is awaiting trial. A spokesperson for Barrack declined to comment on the superseding indictment. 

Prosecutors said Barrack’s investment management company, unnamed in the indictment but known to be Colony Capital, received capital commitments from two UAE sovereign wealth funds totaling $374 million in 2017 after it received no new funds from the country from 2009 to 2016.

Colony Capital has been renamed DigitalBridge Group Inc. A spokesperson for DigitalBridge declined to comment. 

A spokesman for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

When Barrack was first charged last year, Mark Lesko, then the acting assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, said the conduct of the trio charged in the indictment “is nothing short of a betrayal of those officials in the United States, including the former President.”

The original indictment said that at the behest of Emirati officials, Barrack leveraged his long friendship with Trump to get language about the importance of working with “our Gulf allies” inserted in Trump’s campaign speech about energy in 2016. After the election, and while Barrack was the chair of Trump’s inaugural committee, the Emirati officials asked him for information about Trump’s picks to lead the State Department, the CIA and the Defense Department, the filing said.

“We’re working through them in real time and I have our regional interest in high profile. When you get a chance, let’s talk by phone,” Barrack wrote to the officials.

Barrack also worked with the officials during the transition on a plan to influence Trump’s foreign policy for the entirety of his first term, the indictment said.

The original indictment also detailed how, in January 2017, Barrack’s deputy and alleged co-conspirator in the indictment, Matthew Grimes, wrote in a text message that he arranged for a call between President Trump and an Emirati official.

“We can take credit for phone call,” Grimes texted the third alleged co-conspirator in the indictment, Rashid Al Malik of the UAE. The attorney for Grimes, who pleaded not guilty, declined to comment for this article. Al Malik is reported to be at large outside the U.S.

Barrack was arrested in the Los Angeles area in July, law enforcement officials familiar with the matter said, and he is out on bond pending trial. A spokesperson for Barrack said at the time that he “has made himself voluntarily available to investigators from the outset,” adding, “He is not guilty and will be pleading not guilty.”

Prosecutors said in court filings that Barrack provided UAE government officials “with sensitive non-public information about developments within the Administration, including information about the positions of multiple senior United States government officials with respect to the Qatari blockade conducted by the UAE and other Middle Eastern countries.”

The indictment said that the FBI asked Barrack about the UAE officials’ requests in 2019 and that he told the agents the UAE had never asked him for anything related to Trump’s administration.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia blockaded Qatar from 2017 to 2021. Trump tweeted approval of the blockade in 2017.