Tom Barrack, a former adviser to Donald Trump, testified on Monday that he did not know that an Emirati businessman was working in the United States on behalf of the government of the United Arab Emirates, prosecutors alleged.
Barrack’s attorney Michael Schachter asked him about meeting Rashid Al Malik, an Emirati man who allegedly fled the US in April 2018, shortly after being interviewed by the FBI. He remains free. Barrack, his aide Matthew Grimes and Al Malik were charged with acting as a secret back channel to the UAE. Both have pleaded not guilty.
“Did it ever occur to you that maybe Rashid was some kind of UAE government agent?” Schachter asked.
“No sir,” Barrack replied.
“He asked if you are willing to agree to operate in the US under UAE management or control?” Schachter asked.
“Absolutely not,” Barrack replied.
Prosecutors said in opening statements that Al Malik was a citizen of the UAE, and “was working undercover in the United States on behalf of the US government.”
“The defendant Barrack called Rashid Al Malik the UAE’s secret weapon to influence the United States,” Assistant US Attorney Hiral Mehta said.
Barrack testified that he met with a UAE official, Sheikh Tahnoon, in 2015, and that he then hoped to debate with candidate Trump himself.
“I knew at the time that most Arabs were very concerned, not that Trump would be president, but that any candidate for president could attack the Muslim religion in this way,” Barrack said Monday.
After the meeting, Barrack said he briefed Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort on his meeting with Sheikh Tahnoon.
“I knew that Donald Trump, regardless of what anyone thought, was smart, instinctively aligned with different points of view and I think this Muslim ban thing was a big issue for him and it was a campaign for ‘normal people who are saying this.’ America is how you can ban it. a whole religion?'” Barrack said. “What President Trump didn’t have was what any of the representatives of the Muslim community or the Arab community should do. And I thought it would be beneficial to create dialogue for everyone.”
Barrack also testified that legal fees are being paid for Grimes, who is nearly 50 years his junior, and praised him, calling him his “friend” and praising his intellectual curiosity.
“One of the worst feelings of my life is sitting in this courtroom today,” Barrack said. “It’s ridiculous.”
He is a longtime friend of Barrack Trump, who became his advisor and chaired his Presidential Inaugural Committee.
Shortly before Barrack took the stand on Monday, Trump posted on his Truth Social account that Barrack is a “highly respected businessman” and did not believe he was a foreign agent of the UAE.
“He is being unfairly persecuted just because he is a Trump supporter,” Trump said in his post.