Taranaki Daily News
Trump’s friend ‘conspired with UAE’ to shape new president’s views
A long-time business partner and friend of Donald Trump conspired with the United Arab Emirates to draw up a ‘‘wish list’’ of US foreign policies when he was elected president, according to American prosecutors.
An indictment unveiled against Thomas Barrack, 74, a wealthy property investor and chairman of Trump’s inaugural committee, claims to reveal the extent of efforts made by the UAE, an oil-rich Gulf nation, to get close to the president-to-be during and after his campaign. Barrack was arrested on Wednesday in Southern California and ordered to be detained until a hearing next Tuesday. The indictment may also shed new light on widespread confusion in Washington as the UAE’s leader, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed alNahyan, and his regional ally, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, launched aggressive new policies in Trump’s first year.
The alleged back channels to Trump, of which Barrack was part, avoided the formal institutions of the State Department and embassies.
Then when the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain announced a blockade of Qatar in June 2017, Trump appeared to approve, only for the State Department and secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, to reverse that policy and urge rapprochement.
Barrack’s UAE intermediaries were pushing the Emirati position to him and Trump even as the State Department was pushing in the other direction, the indictment alleges.
Barrack, whose investment company was at the same time raising funds in the Gulf, is charged with acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign nation, and with obstruction of justice for lying during initial FBI inquiries.
At one stage, Barrack arranged for a campaign speech by Trump to be edited to include praise of the UAE leadership, the indictment alleges. Barrack then went on a spree of television interviews in support of Trump’s campaign, in which he repeatedly referred to the UAE and its regional policies.
After Trump won the election in November 2016, Barrack and an assistant, Matthew Grimes, 27, are said to have flown to Abu Dhabi to meet Rashid al-Malik Alshahhi, 43, the Emirati businessman acting as his go-between to the UAE leadership, and then the leaders themselves.
‘‘In December 2016 Barrack met with Grimes, Alshahhi and senior UAE government officials, during which he advised them to create a ‘wish list’ of US foreign policy items that the UAE wanted accomplished in the first 100 days, six months, year and four years of the incoming administration,’’ prosecutors say.
The same day Alshahhi began drafting a ‘‘100-day plan’’.
He also sent a message to another Emirati official, who is not named, saying that the top leaders were ‘‘very happy with their progress through Barrack’’.
It is not clear from the indictment, which concentrates on the work Barrack, Grimes and Alshahhi did for the UAE, what practical result it had.
All three are charged although Alshahhi is known to have left the US after first being questioned by the FBI about his links to Trump’s campaign. Barrack’s lawyers say he will plead not guilty.