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Former Trump Inaugural Chair Jeered as ‘Traitor’ Before Pleading Not Guilty to Acting as Illegal Agent of UAE


Thomas Barrack, a close adviser to former President Donald Trump and chair of his inaugural committee, arrives for a court appearance at the U.S. District Court of Eastern District of New York on July 26, 2021 in Downtown Brooklyn in New York City.

In his first federal court appearance in the Eastern District of New York, billionaire Tom Barrack pleaded not guilty on Monday to acting as an unregistered agent of the United Arab Emirates government and lying to the FBI about it.

The former chairman of Donald Trump’s inaugural committee, Barrack was indicted last week of using his clout within the Trump administration to push the UAE’s “wish list” within the U.S. government and in influential news outlets. He is also accused of obstructing justice by lying to federal agents during an interview of June 20, 2019.

Before entering federal court in Brooklyn, Barrack was pursued by a man holding a placard with the word “TRAITOR” in black block caps. Hecklers carried the same message for fellow Trump loyalists Paul Manafort and Roger Stone during their trials, CNBC noted.

As noted in the Mueller Report, that is not all that trio has in common.

Barrack and Stone are the men credited with recommending Manafort to Trump’s campaign team.

“Barrack suggested to Trump that Manafort join the Campaign to manage the Republican Convention,” the Mueller report states. “Stone had worked with Manafort from approximately 1980 until the mid-1990s through various consulting and lobbying firms.”

The “Traitor” heckle also alludes to prosecutors’ allegations that Barrack pushed the “wish list” of high-ranking Emirati officials. Barrack is charged under the same statute used against Russian agent Maria Butina.

After Barrack repeatedly praised the UAE on national television on July 18, 2016, the billionaire told his accused co-conspirator Rashid Al-Malik in an email that he “nailed it” for the “home team,” referring to the UAE, not the United States, according to the indictment.

Prosecutors say that Al-Malik—a UAE national whose full name is Rashid Sultan Rashid Al Malik Alshahhi—fled the United States three days after being interviewed by law enforcement in April 2018 and remains at large.

Matthew Grimes, an Aspen, Colorado resident who worked for Barrack’s company Colony Capital, was arrested on the same day as his former boss and also pleaded not guilty.

Late last week, U.S. Magistrate Judge Patricia Donahue approved a package allowing Barrack’s release that was previously agreed to by the defense and prosecution that included a $250 million bond secured by $5 million in cash. That cash, the amount he actually had to pay, represents an estimated 0.5-percent of the billionaire’s reported net worth.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Sanket Bulsara also approved a bond package. 

When Barrack’s indictment became public last week, his lawyer Mark Herrington announced his client’s plans to contest the charges.

“Tom Barrack made himself voluntarily available to investigators from the outset,” Herrington wrote in an email. “He is not guilty and will be pleading not guilty today.”

Those plans were delayed in the lead-up to a bail hearing. Judge Donahue initially signaled a reluctance to grant pre-trial release to Grimes, citing a “very serious” risk of flight. Barrack sought to postpone their detention hearing after that, leading to the billionaire’s three-day jail stint before his current release.

(Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."