NEW YORK - Federal prosecutors in New York are accusing the chairman of former President Donald Trump's 2017 inaugural committee of conspiring to influence the president's foreign policy positions to benefit the United Arab Emirates and commit crimes striking "at the very heart of our democracy."
Federal agents arrested Tom Barrack, a private equity investor and a close friend of Trump's, in Los Angeles on Tuesday after a seven-count indictment was unsealed in Brooklyn federal court.
In addition to heading Trump's inaugural committee, Barrack would also regularly give television interviews on Trump's behalf.
The indictment charged the 74-year-old with conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and making false statements during a 2019 interview with federal agents.
The FBI arrested two other men — one from Colorado and another said to live in the United Arab Emirates.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Mark Lesko said these defendants capitalized on their access to the soon-to-be president in order to advance the policy goals of a foreign government. He called their actions a "betrayal" to U.S. officials, "including the former president."
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"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," Lesko said in a statement. "The conduct alleged in the indictment is nothing short of a betrayal of those officials in the United States, including the former President. Through this indictment, we are putting everyone — regardless of their wealth or perceived political power — on notice that the Department of Justice will enforce the prohibition of this sort of undisclosed foreign influence."
Barrack was set to appear in federal court in Brooklyn on Tuesday. A spokesman said he would plead not guilty.
"Mr. Barrack has made himself voluntarily available to investigators from the outset," the spokesperson said.
With The Associated Press.