The Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced on July 20 that several defendants—including Thomas Barrack, a former adviser to the 2016 Trump presidential campaign—were charged with engaging in a conspiracy to illegally advance and promote the interests of the United Arab Emirates in the U.S. while failing to notify the Attorney General that their actions were taken at the direction of senior UAE officials, a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 951.
Barrack reportedly was an informal adviser and fundraiser to former president Trump’s 2016 campaign then chaired his presidential inaugural committee, going on to advise U.S. officials on Middle East foreign policy once Trump was in office. According to the indictment, Barrack used these connections to influence foreign policy positions of the Trump campaign in the 2016 election and, subsequently, the foreign policy positions of the U.S. government in the incoming administration.
Among other actions, Barrack allegedly agreed to provide a codefendant with non-public information about the views and reactions of senior U.S. government officials following a White House meeting between senior U.S. officials and senior UAE officials; solicited direction from UAE officials on an op-ed written by Barrack and published in a national magazine; and inserted language praising the UAE into a Trump campaign speech about U.S. energy policy and emailed an advance draft of the speech to a codefendant to pass along to senior UAE officials.
In 2016, Barrack also allegedly advised senior UAE officials to create a “wish list” of U.S. foreign policy items that the UAE wanted accomplished during the incoming Trump administration. Barrack is also charged with obstruction of justice and making false statements to the FBI.
The statute Barrack was charged under is similar to the Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”), which has become a DOJ enforcement priority in recent years.
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