Former Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin testified Thursday in the foreign lobbying trial of then-President Donald Trump’s former adviser Tom Barrack as the defense tried to drop allegations that Barrack was acting as a foreign agent for the United Arab Emirates.
Mnuchin testified about a meeting with Barrack in June 2017, when Barrack disagreed with Trump’s public comments supporting a blockade preventing goods from entering Qatar.
“He came up with the idea of saying that he thinks the president made a mistake by holding on to the shutdown and justifying it,” Mnuchin testified. “His position was clearly pro-Qatar.”
Barrack’s defense called Mnuchin to try to debunk the prosecution’s allegation that Barrack was actually a secret conduit to the UAE, noting that the UAE was one of the countries with which Qatar cut diplomatic ties.
Barrack is accused of acting as a foreign agent for the UAE and of failing to report his role to the Department of Justice. He has declared himself innocent. Barrack’s lawyers have argued that the businessman was never under anyone’s management and was his “own man”.
Former Barrack aide Matthew Grimes was also charged with acting as a foreign agent. Grimes has pleaded not guilty, and her attorney has argued that she was “under the control” of Barrack.
Mnuchin, who testified for about half an hour Thursday, said he did not share classified information during the meeting with Barracks. “I just listened,” Mnuchin said. “He asked me to convey those opinions to the president.”
Mnuchin also testified that Barrack had “no role for me to work in government” and that he had never directed Barrack to do anything on his behalf as Treasury Secretary. Barrack advised Trump as president and served as chairman of his Presidential Inaugural Committee.
Mnuchin is the latest Trump administration official to testify at Barrack’s trial.
Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was called as a prosecution witness earlier this month and testified that he never asked Barrack to conduct any diplomacy on behalf of the United States or provide information to a foreign government, supporting prosecutors’ allegations that Barrack was serving as an official. secret back channel to the United Arab Emirates, but was not officially involved in high-level discussions on Middle East policy with US national security advisers and the secretary of state.
Prosecutors dropped the case on Wednesday.
Prosecutors also questioned Mnuchin about his post-administration life and the private equity fund he runs, which includes investments from UAE sovereign wealth funds. At first, Mnuchin was hesitant to testify on the witness stand.
“Your honor, we are subject to confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements with investors, do I have to answer that?” Mnuchin said.
While Mnuchin testified about his fund, he did not discuss specific dollar amounts. He has declared that he has not spoken to Barrack for many months.