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Trump inaugural committee head accused of being UAE agent

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — The chair of former President Donald Trump’s 2017 inaugural committee was arrested Tuesday on charges alleging he secretly conspired to influence U.S. policy to benefit the United Arab Emirates, even while he was seeking a position as an American diplomat.

Tom Barrack, 74, of Santa Monica, California, was among three men charged in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, with acting as unregistered foreign agents as they tried to influence U.S. policy on the UAE’s behalf while Trump was running in 2016 and later while he was president.

Besides conspiracy, Barrack was charged with obstruction of justice and making multiple false statements during a June 2019 interview with federal agents. Also charged in a seven-count indictment were Matthew Grimes, 27, of Aspen, Colorado, who is a former executive at Barrack’s company, and Rashid al Malik, 43, a businessman from the United Arab Emirates who prosecutors said acted as a conduit to that nation’s rulers.

Prosecutors said the crimes struck at “the very heart of our democracy.”

Barrack and Grimes were arrested in Southern California while al Malik was at large, believed to be living somewhere in the Middle East, authorities said.

At an initial hearing in Los Angeles federal court, Barrack’s lawyer, Ronak D. Desai, agreed that his client could remain detained until a hearing next Monday after prosecutors submitted written arguments saying he should be denied bail as a risk to flee.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Patricia Donahue called Grimes a “serious risk of flight” and also ordered him detained pending a hearing Monday.

Attorney Michael Freedman, representing Grimes, said his client had no criminal history, no longer worked for Barrack’s company and doesn’t have the access investigators allege he once had.

“He is a fairly low-level individual in all of this,” Freedman said.

Neither of the men were required yet to enter a plea.

One of Trump’s close personal friends for decades, Barrack is the latest in a long line of the former president’s associates to face criminal charges, including his former campaign chair, his former deputy campaign chair, his former chief strategist, his former national security adviser, his former personal lawyer and his company’s longtime chief financial officer.

Barrack raised $107 million for Trump’s inaugural celebration, which was scrutinized both for its lavish spending and for attracting numerous foreign officials and businesspeople looking to lobby the new administration.

While the indictment made no allegations of wrongdoing by the inaugural committee, or by Trump, it said Barrack boasted that he had been a 30-year partner of Trump and could help the UAE get more influence in the U.S.

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