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Trump confidant Thomas Barrack to take stand in his own defense

Trump ally pleads not guilty in foreign lobbying case
Trump ally Tom Barrack pleads not guilty to illegal lobbying charges 00:21

Defense attorneys for billionaire Thomas Barrack said Friday they plan to call him as a witness in his own defense as Barrack's trial for allegedly acting as an unregistered foreign agent nears its conclusion.

Judge Brian Cogan indicated Friday afternoon that the decision to call Barrack was a surprise "at midnight," leading him to call the jury in on a day they were expecting to have off.

Randall Jackson, an attorney for Barrack, said other potential witnesses were no longer needed, and Barrack would be the next-to-last one called by his defense.

Barrack, who maintains his innocence of charges of acting as an unregistered foreign agent for the United Arab Emirates, obstruction of justice and making false statements to the FBI, is accused of leveraging his long friendship with former President Donald Trump to sway U.S. foreign policy toward a "wish list" of UAE priorities.

The government wrapped its case Wednesday. Prosecutors showed the jury text messages and emails sent between Barrack and his co-defendants, a former employee named Matthew Grimes and Rashid Al Malik, an Emirati citizen then living in California. The evidence showed Barrack, Grimes and Al Malik discussing Barrack's support of Trump's campaign, American foreign policy in the Gulf, and Barrack's role as chair of the 2016 presidential Inaugural committee. Prosecutors have shown messages in whichAl Malik appeared to relay information from Barrack and Grimes to senior UAE officials.

Prosecutors' case was undermined Thursday by brief testimony from defense witness and former Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. 

Mnuchin said Barrack advocated for Qatar, one of the UAE's top adversaries, during a regional foreign policy crisis: an economic blockade by the UAE and its allies, which was supported by Trump.

Barrack, Grimes and Al Malik were charged in July 2021. At the time, Barrack was executive chairman of investment firm Colony Capital, now known as DigitalBridge. Grimes entered not guilty pleas to charges of acting as an unregistered foreign agent. Al Malik, who was also charged with acting as an unregistered foreign agent, has not been located by law enforcement.

Attorneys for Barrack and Grimes have said their communications with UAE officials were related to their business dealings. They've said Trump and the U.S. State Department were aware of Barrack's international business relationships.

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