Thomas Barrack, chairman and chief executive officer of Colony Capital Inc., gestures while speaking during the closing reception at the Milken Institute Japan Symposium in Tokyo, Japan, on Monday, March 25, 2019. The conference brings together business leaders and government officials to discuss geopolitical, economic and social issues facing Japan. Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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Thomas Barrack, a private equity investor who is a close friend of former President Donald Trump, was arrested Tuesday morning in Los Angeles on federal charges related to illegally lobbying Trump for the United Arab Emirates, the Justice Department said.
Barrack, who was charged with three other men in a seven-count indictment in New York federal court, was chairman of Trump’s 2017 inaugural fund.
Barrack, 74, is a longtime friend of Trump’s, and the founder of the large private equity firm Colony Capital.
The Santa Monica, California, resident Barrack and the other defendants are accused of of unlawful efforts to advance the interests of the UAE at the direction of senior officials of that nation, “by influencing the foreign policy positions of the campaign of a candidate in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and, subsequently, the foreign policy positions of the U.S. government in the incoming administration,” the Justice Department said.
Charged with Barrack for acting and conspiring to act as agents for the UAW from April 2016 throough April 2018 were Matthew Grimes, 27, of Aspen, Colorado, Rashid Sultan Rashid Al Malik Alshahhi and Rashid Al‑Malik, a UAE national.
Barrack is also charged with obstruction of justice and making multiple false statements during a June 2019 interview with federal law enforcement agents.
“The defendants repeatedly capitalized on Barrack’s friendships and access to a candidate who was eventually elected President, high-ranking campaign and government officials, and the American media to advance the policy goals of a foreign government without disclosing their true allegiances,” said acting Assistant Attorney General Mark Lesko of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.
“The conduct alleged in the indictment is nothing short of a betrayal of those officials in the United States, including the former President,” Lesko said in a statement.
A spokeswoman for Trump did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on the arrest.
A spokesman for Barrack could not immediately be reached for comment.
Barrack stepped down at Colony Capital’s CEO in 2020. In April, he resigned as executive chairman of the firm.
Federal prosecutors have been investigating Barrack’s alleged work on behalf of UAE interests for at least two years.
One of the events that caught their attention was a speech about energy policy that Trump gave as a candidate for president in May 2016.
According to the indictment, Barrack “inserted language praising the UAE” into the speech, and “emailed an advance draft of the speech to Alshahhi for delivery to senior UAE officials.”
For the next two years, prosecutors allege, Barrack “sought and received direction and feedback, including talking points, from senior UAE officials in connection with national press appearances Barrack used to promote the interests of the UAE.”
“During this time, Barrack never registered as a lobbyist for the UAE, as required under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.”