Betrayal of Trust: Thomas Barrack's Alleged Exploitation of Connections for UAE

Betrayal of Trust: Thomas Barrack’s Alleged Exploitation of Connections for UAE

Thomas Joseph Barrack Jr., a prominent American private equity real estate investor, has made a name for himself as the founder and executive chairman of Colony Capital, a publicly traded real estate investment trust (REIT). He has also cultivated a close friendship with former U.S. President Donald Trump, serving as a key fundraiser and even representing him in media appearances. Barrack’s involvement in Trump’s presidential campaign and his chairmanship of the Inaugural Committee have raised both eyebrows and questions about potential foreign influence. Last year, the Justice Department indicted Thomas Barrack, for secretly working as an agent of the UAE in an effort to help advance the country’s foreign policy aims.

I. Informal Adviser to U.S. Government on Middle East Issues

Starting in January 2017, Barrack informally advised senior U.S. government officials on matters related to U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. He also expressed interest in holding a significant role in the U.S. government, including potentially becoming the Special Envoy to the Middle East.

II. Indictment and Allegations of Unregistered Foreign Agent Activity

In 2021 and 2022, Barrack faced nine charges due to alleged lobbying activities for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) without proper registration as a foreign agent. The charges include accusations of acting and conspiring under the direction of senior UAE officials to influence a presidential campaign, public opinion, and the U.S. government.

III. Exploitation of Friendships and Connections for UAE Interests

According to Acting Assistant Attorney General Mark Lesko, Barrack leveraged his friendships and connections with a candidate who eventually became President, high-ranking campaign and government officials, and the American media to promote the policy objectives of the UAE without disclosing his true affiliations. Lesko emphasized that this conduct represents a significant betrayal of trust placed in U.S. officials, including the former President. The indictment serves as a clear warning of the Department of Justice’s commitment to enforcing the prohibition of undisclosed foreign influence.

IV. Engaging in Conspiracy to Advance UAE Interests

Following the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Barrack allegedly acted upon the direction of UAE officials to influence the foreign policy positions of the incoming administration in favor of UAE interests. This included advising UAE officials to create a “wishlist” of U.S. foreign policy objectives and promoting the candidacy of an individual favored by the UAE for the position of U.S. Ambassador to the UAE. Additionally, Barrack reportedly provided non-public information about the views of senior U.S. government officials following a meeting with UAE officials at the White House.

Thomas Joseph Barrack Jr.’s involvement in U.S.-UAE relations has come under scrutiny due to his alleged lobbying activities without proper registration as a foreign agent. The charges against him underscore the importance of transparency and disclosure when interacting with foreign governments and officials. The Department of Justice’s actions serve as a warning to others who may engage in undisclosed foreign influence and mislead investigators, ensuring that such actions will be met with consequences.

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