Trump allies deny foreign influence accusations


A California billionaire known as an ally of Donald Trump used his testimony at a federal trial on Monday to question Trump’s leadership on foreign policy, saying the former president knew nothing. on Middle East dynamics.

The defendant, Tom Barrack, allegedly used his “unique access” as a longtime friend of Trump to provide confidential information about the Trump administration to the United Arab Emirates to promote the foreign policy and business interests of the UAE. Prosecutors say that while UAE officials cooperated with Barrack, they rewarded him by pouring millions of dollars into his business ventures.

Barrack, one-time chairman of Trump’s inaugural committee, told a New York City grand jury that he considers Trump a “bold” and “smart” businessman, and has supported his candidacy. as a political outsider “could be a good thing for the system.” However, he testified that he was later disillusioned by Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric and other divisive stances he called “disaster.”

He testified that some of his clients in his private equity firm were “so upset that I was friends with the chairman.” Trump, he added, is seen as someone who “can’t spell “Middle East”. ΓǪ It’s a nightmare.”

Barrack said he was on a mission to sell Trump as he encouraged the UAE and Saudi Arabia to link up with Israel as a way to bring stability to the oil-rich region. He also worked behind the scenes to try to get the former president to abandon the idea of ​​a Muslim travel ban.

He said he took the stance, “This is America. How can you ban an entire religion?”

Barrack also testified that it was “impossible” for him to act as a foreign agent for a Middle Eastern investor in his company because other investors would object to it. Barrack said there is a rigorous vetting process to ensure that money managers do not have such a conflict of interest.

Investors “want to know that no one has an edge, that they’re all equal,” he said. If it doesn’t, “It will give every other investor chills,” he added.

Barrack, 75, has pleaded not guilty to acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign government, obstructing justice and making false statements. His lawyers have denied he did anything insinuating.

The Los Angeles-based billionaire has known Trump going back decades, dating back to the days when they developed real estate. Barrack played an integral role in the 2016 campaign as a top fundraiser at a time when many other Republicans were alienating the up-and-coming candidate.

The government halted the criminal case last week. Much of the evidence focuses on email and other back-channel communications between Barrack and his senior leaders in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Prosecutors say those communications show how Barrack and his contacts strategized to win over Trump.

The defendant suggested on Monday that there was nothing nefarious about his frequent contact with UAE leaders while Trump was in office. Interactions will be a normal part of doing business with any country or government, he said, on high-end real estate deals using state-owned investment funds. .

The explanation came after Barrack described his rise to a high profile from humble beginnings in Southern California as the son of a small grocer of Lebanese descent. With his background knowledge, the Arabic speaker says he has developed a “sixth sense” of culture to build relationships with clients in the Arab world.

Before being indicted, Barrack made headlines by donating $107 million to the former president’s inauguration after the 2016 election. The event came under scrutiny for its lavish spending and attracting foreign officials and businessmen seeking to lobby the new administration.

Barrack will continue to testify on Tuesday.

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