Prosecutors, defense deliver closing arguments in Trump ally Tom Barrack's illegal lobbying trial
(WASHINGTON) — Prosecutors accused former President Donald Trump ally Tom Barrack of “leveraging his access” while the defense accused the prosecution of “misdirection” as closing arguments concluded Tuesday in Barrack’s trial on charges of illegal foreign lobbying.
The government has accused Barrack, a billionaire California real estate investor who ran Trump’s 2016 inaugural committee, of illegally lobbying the Trump campaign and administration on behalf of the United Arab Emirates. The nearly two-month trial included mentions of Trump himself and some of his closest associates.
Prosecutors urged the jury to convict Barrack on charges that he acted as a foreign agent for the UAE from 2016 to 2018 without registering with the Department of Justice. He also faces charges of obstruction and multiple counts of lying to the FBI during a 2019 FBI interview.
“There are two Tom Barracks,” prosecutor Ryan Harris told the jury. “The man who talks about weaving a web of tolerance, and the man he really is when the cameras are off, when no one is watching, when the facade is stripped away — a man ultimately just leveraging his access and influence within the Trump administration to make money and acquire power.”
In exchange for acting under the “direction and control” of the UAE, prosecutors said, UAE officials in turn “unlocked its purse strings” and invested nearly $375 million in Barrack’s business from sovereign wealth funds.
“Mr. Barrack sold the UAE on his political connections,” Harris said.
Barrack has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him. On Tuesday, his attorney said in his summation that there was a “total lack of evidence in this case.”
“Instead of proof of direction and control, I submit to you that throughout this entire case what they have given you is misdirection and control,” Barrack’s attorney, Randall Jackson, told the jury.
During the trial, Barrack testified in his own defense to deny the charges against him, and spent nearly three days on the stand answering questions about his contacts with UAE officials, which he said were part of his long-standing business ties to the Middle East.
Barrack, who at times denounced Trump on the stand, denied prosecutor’s allegations — including that he agreed to act on behalf of the UAE during a spring 2016 meeting with the head of the UAE’s security council.
“Did he ask you if you wanted to be a UAE foreign agent?” his defense attorney, Michael Schachter, asked him during his testimony.
“No,” replied Barrack.
Barrack, whose family is from Lebanon, testified that his interactions with UAE officials were well-known, and that he did not think there would have been any restrictions on his ability to discuss the Trump campaign’s positions with UAE officials.
“I thought that was actually a great thing,” Barrack said. “The idea of having somebody that had knowledge in both confused arenas that could create some web of understanding and tolerance is what I know we all needed.”
He laughed when asked by his attorney about the government’s allegation that he was working to “manipulate the public” and “spread UAE propaganda.”
“Not at all,” Barrack said.
Barrack also testified that he briefed then-candidate Trump on his interactions with United Arab Emirates officials as he tried to help Trump better understand Middle East issues.
“I talked to President Trump about it, and he said, ‘You do the right thing,'” Barrack testified about one of his meetings with a UAE official.
The high-profile case at times offered a glimpse into the workings of Trump’s inner circle during the 2016 campaign and the early days of his administration, including their contacts with foreign officials. Trump associates including Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, and Rick Gates were all mentioned over the course of the trial.
The majority of the government’s case rested on hundreds of Barrack’s emails and text messages, which prosecutors and witnesses read aloud to the jury over several days. The correspondences showed Barrack arranging meetings with senior UAE government officials to discuss policy initiatives over the course of several months.
Matthew Grimes, Barrack’s aide at his real estate firm, is also charged in the case and has also pleaded not guilty. Grimes’ attorney, Abbe Lowell, told the jury that prosecutors had “failed miserably” in their case.
The jury is expected to receive the case Wednesday for deliberations, the judge said in court.
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