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Tom Barrack and Matthew Grimes: Former Trump ally and associate acquitted of foreign lobbying charges



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 defeat for the Justice Department, which in recent years has launched a crackdown on individuals for undisclosed contacts with foreign governments because of potential national security risks.

Barrack was acquitted of acting as an unregistered foreign agent in the United States and conspiring to act as an unregistered foreign agent in the United States. The jurors had deliberated for about 13 hours from Wednesday.

Barrack, his former employee Matthew Grimes and an Emirati businessman named Rashid Al Malik were indicted last year and accused of acting as a secret backchannel for the United Arab Emirates. Prosecutors allege that Al Malik was secretly operating in the United States as an agent of the UAE government. Al Malik fled the United States shortly after being questioned by the FBI in 2018 and remains at large.

Grimes was acquitted of two counts: acting as an unregistered foreign agent in the United States and conspiring to act as an unregistered foreign agent in the United States.

“Matthew couldn’t be more grateful that we have a system in which the truth and his innocence can be shown,” said Abbot Lowell, Grimes’ attorney. “However, this is just another example of overshoot and overload and the problem is not that everyone has the capacity to fight back. The system needs more supervision to prevent these kinds of cases from happening. be deposited.

Barrack also faced one count of obstruction of justice and six counts of misrepresentation. He was acquitted on all seven counts.

“God bless America, the system works,” Barrack told reporters after Friday’s verdict.

“These 12 people, normal people with such complex and unbelievable facts before them, are somehow fighting through all the quagmires to find justice with a lit torch and a judge protecting them,” he added.

Asked about the timing of the acquittal and the midterm elections, Barrack said: ‘Let’s stop fighting each other, let’s stop the politicization, whoever the president is, let’s honor him and leave all this garbage behind. we. This is what America is. Politics is just plain boring to all of us. Before leaving, he said he was done with politics.

Prosecutors had alleged Barrack offered Emirati officials his access to Trump’s campaign in 2016, which he told Al Malik in an email he ’employed’ after recommending Paul Manafort for a role . In return, prosecutors said, UAE-controlled sovereign wealth funds poured $374 million into projects by Colony Capital, Barrack’s company. Barrack’s defense attorney, Randall Jackson, claimed that amount was insignificant – “less than 1%” of the company’s balance sheet.

During the trial, Trump posted on his Truth Social account calling Barrack a “highly respected businessman” and saying he did not believe he was a foreign agent of the UAE. Barrack is a longtime friend of Trump, served as chairman of his inaugural presidential committee and advised him as president.

Lowell said during his closing argument that prosecutors have shown no evidence that Grimes entered into an agreement with a UAE official to work as a foreign agent.

“A person cannot become an agent by mistake or by chance. He has to do it knowingly and intentionally,” Lowell said.

Over the past five years, the Department of Justice has revived criminal law that had lain dormant for decades and brought numerous criminal prosecutions under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, known as the FARA, against individuals who lobbied for foreign governments or companies without disclosing it, as required by law. right, to the Attorney General.

Key Trump allies Paul Manafort, Rick Gates and Elliot Broidy have all pleaded guilty to FARA-related offenses. Manafort and Gates were pardoned by former President Donald Trump.

But when the cases went to trial, the Justice Department’s record was mixed. Greg Craig, a former White House attorney during the Obama administration, was acquitted by a jury of lying to the FBI about his work for the Ukrainian government.

Barrack, who was not charged under FARA statute, was charged with acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign government. The status, known as “light espionage” by the national security community, is often reserved for cases involving spies.

Prosecutors must prove that the person had an agreement and was working under the direction and control of a foreign government.

Earlier this year, a Mexican national pleaded guilty to acting as a foreign agent and admitted to traveling to the United States at the direction of a Russian intelligence officer to seek information on an American informant .

But the case of the foreign agent of a former business partner of Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, escalated in court. He was convicted by a jury only for the trial judge to overturn the conviction. The conviction was later restored by a federal appeals court, which sent the case back to the trial judge. He got a new trial.

The nearly two-month-long trial included mentions of Trump himself and some of his former cabinet members. Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson testified that he never asked Barrack to conduct diplomacy on behalf of the United States or pass information to a foreign government.

The defense team also called former Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to testify about a meeting with Barrack in June 2017, when Barrack disagreed with Trump’s public comments supporting a blockade preventing goods from being transported. entering Qatar.

The defense attempted to refute the prosecution’s allegation that Barrack was in fact a secret channel for the UAE, noting that the UAE was one of several countries to have severed diplomatic ties with Qatar. .

“He came up with the idea of ​​telling me that he thought the president had made a mistake in supporting the blockade and explaining why,” Mnuchin said. “His position was clearly in favor of Qatar.”

This story has been updated with additional details.


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