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Trump Inaugural Chair Thomas Barrack Arrested, Accused Of Being Unregistered Lobbyist For United Arab Emirates

SANTA MONICA (CBSLA) — Thomas Barrack, a former adviser to President Trump and chair of his inaugural committee, was arrested Tuesday in the Los Angeles area after a federal indictment accused him of being an unregistered agent of the United Arab Emirates.

The seven-count indictment unsealed Tuesday in a New York federal court accuses 74-year-old Barrack, of Santa Monica, and two fellow defendants of working to advance the interests of a foreign government in the United States.

Milken Institute 2019 Global Conference
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - APRIL 29: Thomas Barrack, Executive Chairman and CEO, Colony Capital, participates in a panel discussion during the annual Milken Institute Global Conference at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on April 28, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images)

The indictment – which also names 27-year-old Matthew Grimes of Aspen, Colo. And 43-year-old UAE national Rashid Sultan Rashid Al Malik Alshahhi – alleges the trio acted and conspired to act as agents of the UAE between April 2016 and April 2018. Barrack is additionally charged with obstruction of justice and making false statements during a June 2019 interview with federal law enforcement agents.

"The defendants repeatedly capitalized on Barrack's friendships and access to a candidate who was eventually elected President, high-ranking campaign and government officials and the American media to advance the policy goals of a foreign government without disclosing their true allegiances," Mark Lesko, acting assistant attorney general of the Justice Department's National Security Division, said in a statement.

Barrack, who founded LA-based Colony Capital Inc., served as an informal adviser to the Trump campaign before the 2016 Election and as chairman of Trump's inaugural committee between November 2016 and January 2017. Federal prosecutors say Barrack sought appointment to a senior administration post, including the role of Special Envoy to the Middle East.

According to the Department of Justice, Barrack regularly and repeatedly used his position to advance the interests of the UAE. Prosecutors say Barrack inserted language praising the UAE into a May 2016 Trump campaign speech about U.S. energy policy, and sought direction from UAE officials in advance of an op-ed he published in a national magazine in October of 2016. Following Trump's election, prosecutors say Barrack continued to advance the UAE's interests by promoting the candidacy of an unidentified person for the position of U.S. Ambassador to the UAE, and advising against a proposed summit with Qatar and other Middle Eastern governments at Camp David that the UAE opposed.

Barrack, Grimes, and Alshahhi did not provide the required notification to the Attorney General that they were acting in the U.S. as agents of a foreign government, prosecutors said.

Barrack is expected to appear in federal court in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday afternoon. Grimes was also arrested on Tuesday, but Alshahhi remains at large.

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