On Friday, a federal jury found Thomas J. Barrack Jr., a real estate investor and close adviser to former President Donald Trump, not guilty of foreign lobbying and lying to the FBI, reports say.
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On Friday, a federal jury found Thomas J. Barrack Jr., a real estate investor and close advisor to former President Donald Trump, not guilty of foreign lobbying and lying to the FBI in a blow to the Justice Department, multiple outlets reported.
The charges against Barrack stemmed from allegations that he was acting as an unregistered foreign agent of the United Arab Emirates and that he lied to the government when questioned about it.
A jury in Brooklyn deliberated for two days before voting to acquit the Colony Capital founder.
Prosecutors alleged the 75-year-old businessman who served as a senior adviser to Trump’s 2016 campaign as well as on his inaugural committee, capitalized on his decades-long relationship with the 45th president to provide UAE officials with access to and inside information on the Trump campaign and Trump White House.
Barrack faced charges of acting as an agent of a foreign government without prior notification to the justice department, a charge that carried up to 10 years in prison if convicted. Additionally, he was charged with obstruction of justice and lying to FBI agents about his contacts with the UAE during a 2019 interview with federal investigators.
Barrack, a billionaire and California resident, has denied working for the Emirates and has maintained that he organized meetings between UAE officials and White House staff and made public comments praising the UAE by his own fruition, not because he was paid to.
He thanked the jury following his acquittal. “I’m so moved by them and the system,” he said, according to NBC News.
Barrack’s codefendant, former aide Matthew Grimes, was also found not guilty.
Prosecutors built their case largely around emails and text messages between Barrack and the Emirati businessman Rashid Al Malik, who they described as the go-between for dealings with UAE officials.
Messages between the pair show Al Malik giving Barrack feedback on positive things to say about the UAE during television appearances and input on what Trump should say about energy policy during an upcoming campaign speech.
Barrack began his business career as an executive in the Robert M. Bass Group and first dealt with Trump when he sold him a one-fifth stake in Alexander’s Department Stores. He dealt with him again when Trump paid Barrack $40 million for full ownership of the Plaza Hotel in New York. Trump later lost both properties in bankruptcy.
He founded Colony Capital in 1990. The company achieved 50 percent profitability in two years by focusing on distressed properties and investing heavily in real estate in the Middle East.
In 2019, the company merged with the investment firm Digital Bridge, and Barrack stepped down as its CEO in 2020. Digital Bridge has moved the company’s focus away from real estate and toward digital assets, such as data centers and cell towers and has sought to distance itself from Barrack following his arrest.
The not-guilty verdict represents a blow to the Justice Department as they seek to weed out foreign influence in government affairs.
The verdict came at the end of a six-week trial in federal court in Brooklyn that included testimony from former Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.