AP

On witness stand, Trump ally denies foreign influence charge

Oct 24, 2022, 11:38 AM | Updated: 3:24 pm

Tom Barrack exits Brooklyn Federal Court on Friday, Oct. 21, 2022, in New York. Barrack, the onetim...

Tom Barrack exits Brooklyn Federal Court on Friday, Oct. 21, 2022, in New York. Barrack, the onetime chair of the Trump's inaugural committee, is accused of using his "unique access" as a longtime friend of Trump to manipulate Trump's campaign -- and later his Republican administration -- to advance the interests of the UAE. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

(AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

NEW YORK (AP) — A California billionaire known as an ally of Donald Trump used his testimony at his federal trial on Monday to question Trump’s leadership on foreign policy, saying the former president was clueless about the dynamics in the Middle East.

The defendant, Tom Barrack, is accused of using his “unique access” as a longtime friend of Trump to provide confidential information about the Trump administration to the United Arab Emirates to advance the UAE’s foreign policy and business interests. Prosecutors say that while UAE officials were consorting with Barrack, they were rewarding him by pouring millions of dollars into his business ventures.

Barrack, the onetime chair of Trump’s inaugural committee, told a New York City jury that he considered Trump to be a “bold” and “smart” businessman, and had backed his candidacy as a political outsider who “could be a good thing for the system.” However, he testified that he later grew disillusioned because of Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric and other divisive positions he called “disastrous.”

He testified that some of his clients in his private equity firm “were upset I was friends with the president.” Trump, he added, was perceived as someone who “could not spell ‘Middle East.’ … It was a nightmare.”

Barrack said he made it a mission to sell Trump on encouraging the UAE and Saudi Arabia to align with Israel as a way to bring stability to the oil-rich region. He also worked behind the scenes to try to get the former president to drop the idea of a Muslim travel ban.

He said he took the position, “This is America. How can you ban a whole religion?”

Barrack also testified that it would have been “impossible” for him to act as a foreign agent for one Middle East investor in his firm because other investors would object to it. Barrack said there’s an intense vetting process to assure that money managers don’t have such conflicts of interest.

Investors “want to know that nobody has an edge, that they’re all equal,” he said. Otherwise, “It would chill every other investor,” he added.

Barrack, 75, has pleaded not guilty to acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign government, obstruction of justice and making false statements. His lawyers have denied he did anything underhanded.

The Los Angeles-based billionaire has known Trump going back decades, since their days developing real estate. Barrack played an integral role in the 2016 campaign as a top fundraiser at a time when many other Republicans were shunning the upstart candidate.

The government rested its criminal case last week. Much of the evidence focused on emails and other back-channel communications between Barrack and his high-level leaders in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Prosecutors say those communications show how Barrack and his contacts strategized over how to win over Trump.

The defendant suggested on Monday that there was nothing nefarious about his constant contact with UAE leaders while Trump was taking office. The interactions would have been a normal part of doing business with any country or government partnering with him in high-end real estate deals using state-owned investment funds, he said.

The explanation came after Barrack described his rise to a high-finance heavyweight from humble beginnings in Southern California as the son of a small grocery store owner of Lebanese descent. With his background, the Arabic speaker said he developed a cultural “sixth sense” for building relationships with Arab world clients.

Before being indicted, Barrack drew attention by raising $107 million for the former president’s inaugural celebration following the 2016 election. The event was scrutinized both for its lavish spending and for attracting foreign officials and businesspeople looking to lobby the new administration.

Barrack is to continue testifying on Tuesday.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

This satellite image from Planet Labs PBC shows Iran's nuclear site in Isfahan, Iran, April 4, 2024...

Associated Press

Israel, Iran play down apparent Israeli strike. The muted responses could calm tensions — for now

Israel and Iran are both playing down an apparent Israeli airstrike near a major air base and nuclear site in central Iran.

2 days ago

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., talks to reporters just after lawmakers pushed a $95 bill...

Associated Press

Ukraine, Israel aid advances in rare House vote as Democrats help Republicans push it forward

The House pushed ahead Friday on a foreign aid package of $95 billion for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and other sources of humanitarian support.

2 days ago

southern Arizona rancher George Alan Kelly...

Associated Press

Trial of a southern Arizona rancher charged in fatal shooting of unarmed migrant goes to the jury

Closing arguments were made against a southern Arizona rancher accused of shooting an undocumented migrant on his land to death on Thursday.

3 days ago

Donald Trump's hush money trial: 12 jurors selected...

Associated Press

Although 12 jurors were picked for Donald Trump’s hush money trial, selection of alternates is ongoing

A jury of 12 people was seated Thursday in former President Donald Trump's hush money trial. The proceedings are close to opening statements.

3 days ago

A anti-abortion supporter stands outside the House chamber, Wednesday, April 17, 2024, at the Capit...

Associated Press

Democrats clear path to bring proposed repeal of Arizona’s near-total abortion ban to a vote

Democrats in the Arizona Senate cleared a path to bring a proposed repeal of the state’s near-total ban on abortions to a vote.

4 days ago

Most Americans are sleepy new Gallup poll finds...

Associated Press

Most Americans say they don’t get enough sleep, according to new Gallup poll

A new Gallup poll found that most Americans are sleepy — or, at least, they say they are. Multiple factors play into this.

6 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

...

Fiesta Bowl Foundation

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade is excitingly upon us

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe is upon us! The attraction honors Arizona and the history of the game.

(KTAR News Graphic)...

Boys & Girls Clubs

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.

On witness stand, Trump ally denies foreign influence charge