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Thomas Barrack, a friend of Donald Trump’s who chaired the former president’s inauguration committee, was arrested Tuesday on federal charges that he acted as an agent of a foreign government.
Prosecutors say Barrack, 74, parlayed his close ties to the Trump White House to advance the interests of the United Arab Emirates.
Along with Barrack, Matthew Grimes, 27, of Aspen, Colo., and Rashid Sultan Rashid Al Malik Alshahhi, 43, a UAE national, are accused of acting and conspiring to act as agents of the Middle Eastern nation between April 2016 and April 2018. Grimes worked for Barrack at an investment management firm.
Prosecutors say the three defendants did not provide the required notification to the U.S. attorney general that they were acting as agents of a foreign government.
Barrack is also charged with obstructing justice and lying to federal 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,” Mark Lesko, acting assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, said in a statement.
In 2016, Barrack served as an informal adviser to Trump’s campaign, prosecutors say, and then he chaired Trump’s Presidential Inaugural Committee. Once Trump was in office, Barrack informally advised U.S. officials on foreign policy in the Middle East.
Authorities say they won’t hesitate to enforce laws that require disclosure of foreign influence campaigns inside the U.S.
NPR Justice Correspondent Carrie Johnson contributed reporting.