Alleged UAE foreign agents have Aspen ties
Barrack Jr. owns home here and touted Trump’s “brilliant” Middle East work at 2017 Aspen event
It was Aug. 10, 2017, when Thomas Barrack Jr. told an Aspen audience why he believed Donald Trump was performing well as president, and it was also then that he was allegedly working covertly for the United Arab Emirates, federal authorities said Tuesday.
Of the three defendants named in an unsealed seven-count indictment, which alleges they conspired on the UAE’s behalf to influence Trump’s foreign policy positions on both the 2016 campaign trail and as president, two have Aspen connections.
In addition to Barrack, 74, who owns a home in Eagle Pines he bought for $15.5 million in November 2017, Matthew Grimes, 27, also of Aspen, was indicted.
Authorities arrested both men Tuesday morning in California, according to a Department of Justice news release. The third defendant, Rashid al-Malik Alshahhi, a UAE businessman, had not been arrested as of Tuesday, according to the release.
The three defendants acted as UAE agents from April 2016 to April 2018, authorities alleged. They also did not notify the attorney general, as required by federal lobbying laws, “of their activities and in derogation of the American people’s right to know when a foreign government seeks to influence the policies of our government and our public opinion,” the release said.
Barrack Jr. spoke at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland and was the chairman of the 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee. He also is founder of Colony Capital.
“The defendants repeatedly capitalized on Barrack’s friendships and access to a candidate who was eventually elected President, high-ranking campaign and government officials, and the American media to advance the policy goals of a foreign government without disclosing their true allegiances,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Lesko in a statement. “The conduct alleged in the indictment is nothing short of a betrayal of those officials in the United States, including the former President. Through this indictment, we are putting everyone — regardless of their wealth or perceived political power — on notice that the Department of Justice will enforce the prohibition of this sort of undisclosed foreign influence.”
During his August 2017 interview in Aspen with Jimmy Reiss at Paepcke Auditorium, which was part of the McCloskey Speaker Series at the Aspen Institute, Barrack Jr. praised the Trump administration’s work in the complex arena of Middle East affairs and its grasp on the region’s difficult history.
“This is just my view; this is not the administration’s view” he said. “This is Tom Barrack, a Lebanese Catholic American’s view as an Arab American immigrant. The president gets the historic value.”
He also touched on strained diplomatic relations among the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
“That part of the world for us is no longer the resource curse,” he said. “They can’t rely on us for independent economics, and we can’t rely on them to control their own regimes.
“So what the president has done in a brilliant way is help realign those relationships, and you see it happening with (Crown Prince) Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia … what’s happening with Qatar, the UAE and Saudi Arabia — three fantastic regimes, all pro-U.S.”
Like Trump’s willingness to shatter traditional convention in Washington, Barrack Jr. said he too would take the “path that nobody has been on. It’s lonely, it’s daunting and you’re deafened by the applause of going down that road at the time, but at least you have somebody who is willing to do it.”
He added: “Starting in life, I was a lawyer. I went to go work for a great firm, but my first lucky break was when they needed a finance lawyer to go to Saudi Arabia in 1972. I was one in 160 million people that would do that.”
The discussion was titled “Insights into President Trump’s Vision for the Nation with Thomas Barrack, Jr.”
Details were scant about Grimes’ time in Aspen. He allegedly reported directly to Barrack, the indictment said.
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