Tom Barrack, a longtime ally of Donald Trump, was acquitted of all federal foreign lobbying charges in a Brooklyn courthouse on Friday.
The acquittal is a setback for the Justice Department, which in recent years has launched a crackdown on individuals with undisclosed ties to foreign governments for potential threats to national security.
Barrack was acquitted of acting as an unregistered foreign agent in the United States and of conspiracy to act as an unregistered foreign agent in the United States. Jurors deliberated for about 13 hours since Wednesday.
Barrack, his former employee Matthew Grimes and Emirati businessman Rashid Al Malik were indicted last year and accused of operating a secret channel in the United Arab Emirates. Prosecutors say Al Malik was secretly operating in the United States as an agent of the UAE government. Al Malik fled the U.S. shortly after he was arrested in 2018. he was interviewed by the FBI and remains at large.
Grimes was acquitted of both charges of acting as an unregistered foreign agent in the United States and conspiracy to act as an unregistered foreign agent in the United States.
“Matthew couldn’t be more grateful that we have a system where the truth and his innocence can be shown,” Grimes’ attorney Abbe Lowell said. “But this is just another example of over- and over-taxation, and the problem is that not everyone has the ability to fight back.” The system needs more maintenance to prevent such cases from being filed.
Barak also faced one count of obstruction of justice and six counts of making false statements. He was acquitted of all seven charges.
“God bless America, the system works,” Barrack told reporters after Friday’s sentencing.
“These 12 people, normal people, faced with such complicated, unbelievable facts, somehow fight through all the swamps to find Mrs. Justice with a torch and a judge to protect them,” he added.
Asked about the acquittal and the midterm elections, Barrack said: “Let’s stop fighting each other, stop politicizing whoever the president is, let’s honor him and leave all this garbage behind. That’s what America is. Politics just annoys us all.” Before leaving, he said he was done with politics.
Prosecutors said Barrack offered Emirati officials the opportunity to participate in the 2016 In Trump’s campaign, which he e-mailed told Al Malik in a letter that he “hired” him after recommending Paul Manafort for the role. In return, according to prosecutors, UAE-controlled sovereign wealth funds poured $374 million into Barrack’s Colony Capital projects. Barack’s defense attorney, Randall Jackson, said the amount was insignificant — “less than 1%” of the company’s balance sheet.
During the trial, Trump posted on his Truth Social account that he called Barrack a “highly respected businessman” and said he did not believe he was a foreign agent of the UAE. Barrack is a longtime friend of Trump, served as chairman of his Presidential Inaugural Committee and advised him as president.
During his closing argument, Lowell said prosecutors had not presented evidence that Grimes had arranged with the UAE official to work as a foreign agent.
“One cannot become an agent by mistake or accident. He has to do it consciously and deliberately,” Ms. Lowell said.
Over the past five years, the Justice Department has revived a criminal law that had been dormant for decades and has brought numerous criminal cases under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, known as FARA, against individuals who lobbied foreign governments or companies without making disclosures as required. law, to the Attorney General.
Trump’s most prominent allies, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates and Elliott Broidy, have pleaded guilty to FARA-related crimes. Manafort and Gates were pardoned by former President Donald Trump.
But when the cases were tried, the Justice Department’s results were mixed. Greg Craig, a former White House counsel during the Obama administration, has been acquitted by a jury of lying to the FBI about work he did for the Ukrainian government.
Barrack, who was not charged under the FARA statute, was indicted on charges that he acted as an unregistered agent of a foreign government. The statute, referred to in the national security community as “extraordinary espionage,” is often reserved for cases involving spies.
Prosecutors must prove that the individual entered into an agreement and worked under the direction and control of a foreign government.
Earlier this year, a Mexican national pleaded guilty to acting as a foreign agent, admitting that he came to the United States at the behest of a Russian intelligence official to obtain information about a U.S. informant.
However, the foreign agents case of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s business partner has fizzled out in the courts. He was found guilty by a jury only after the trial judge overturned the conviction. The conviction was then reversed by a federal appeals court, which sent the case back to the trial judge. He was granted a new trial.
Trump himself and some of his former cabinet members were named in the nearly two-month trial. Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson testified that he never asked Barrack to conduct diplomacy on behalf of the United States or pass any information to a foreign government.
The defense team also called former Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to testify about a meeting with Barrack in 2017. in June, when Barrack disagreed with Trump’s public comments supporting the blockade preventing goods from entering Qatar.
The defense tried to refute the prosecution’s claims that Barrack was actually a covert channel for the UAE, noting that the UAE was one of several countries that cut diplomatic ties with Qatar.
“He came in with the idea of telling me that he thought the president had made a mistake in supporting the blockade and went through his reasoning as to why,” testified M. “His position was clearly pro-Qatar.
This story has been updated with additional information.