Politico

Trump ally Tom Barrack pleads not guilty to foreign agent charges


NEW YORK — Tom Barrack, a longtime adviser to former President Donald Trump, pleaded not guilty on Monday to charges that he secretly acted as an agent for the United Arab Emirates.

Barrack, who chaired Trump’s inaugural committee, was arraigned in a federal court in Brooklyn on a seven-count indictment.

He appeared along with Matthew Grimes, his former aide, who is charged with two counts.

Attorneys for both men entered pleas of not guilty on their behalf.

Barrack, a wealthy private equity investor, was released on $250 million bond, mirroring an agreement he reached in California on Friday.

Barrack, 74, is charged with failing to register as a foreign agent, conspiracy, obstruction of justice and four counts of making false statements to the FBI.

Prosecutors say he put pro-UAE language into a Trump campaign speech in May 2016, took direction from UAE officials about what to say in media appearances and in an op-ed he wrote, and agreed to promote the Middle Eastern nation’s favored candidate for the U.S. ambassadorship there.

“Tom Barrack pled not guilty today. He did that because he’s innocent,” his attorney, Matthew Herrington, told reporters after the court hearing in Brooklyn. “The charges that were presented to him today were based on information that were presented and discussed in my conference room two years ago. And he is innocent. We look forward to proving it in court.”

Judge Sanket Bulsara, a magistrate judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, agreed to release Barrack on the $250 million bail package, an unusually large sum because prosecutors deemed him a flight risk.

“Of course I am innocent of all these charges and we will prove that in court,” Barrack said in a statement distributed by his attorney after he left court in a black SUV.

“The important thing for us to remember is three miles from here standing in the middle of New York Harbor is the Statue of Liberty with a torch in her hand signifying enlightenment, welcoming the seven continents across the seven seas to bring to her the immigrant masses to give them tolerance, liberty and justice,” he said. “My grandparents came here in 1896 and 1900 and from humble and simple beginnings. They gave me the gift of all that America has to offer. That statue is made of steel with a patina of copper. We’re in the middle of a very heated moment and I can only tell you that the hardest steel is forged from the hottest fire.”

The Trump adviser’s bond was secured by four properties, $5 million cash and shares he owns in an investment firm. His son and former wife and a business associate, Jonathan Grunzweig, agreed to pledge their homes to secure his release as well.

Bulsara warned Barrack not to violate the conditions of his bail or he and his family would lose everything. “That might wipe you out, sir,” he said.

Barrack agreed not to travel outside Colorado, where he lives; California; where his children live; and New York, where he must appear in court. He surrendered his passport and agreed not to travel by private plane, which he has done extensively in the past. He also promised to have no contact with Grimes and not to conduct foreign business transactions.

The judge said the “quite substantial” bond package was “sufficient to mitigate the risk of flight.”

Grimes was released on $5 million bond, with his parents pledging their home as collateral.

A third defendant, UAE businessperson Rashid Al-Malik, is charged in the case, but he left the country in 2019 after being questioned by the FBI.

Tensions arose at the end of the hearing when it was revealed that lawyers for Grimes began to receive discovery material from federal prosecutors over the weekend, which Barrack’s attorney, Herrington, said he did not receive.

Herrington called it “highly irregular” and demanded an explanation. Grimes’ lawyer said he had requested one item specific to his client, and prosecutors said they would provide additional discovery beginning this week.

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