Trump ally Tom Barrack pleads not guilty to UAE illegal lobbying charges

Thomas J. Barrack Jr. in his Santa Monica, California, home in 2016. (Al Seib/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
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Chris Dolmetsch Bloomberg News (TNS)

Tom Barrack pleaded not guilty to charges that he illegally lobbied the U.S. government on behalf of the United Arab Emirates and lied to investigators about it.

The founder of Colony Capital Inc. and former chairman of Trump’s inaugural committee appeared calm Monday while answering questions from a federal magistrate judge, and even while being mobbed by cameras as he left the courthouse in New York City. It was the first in-person court appearance for Barrack, 74, since being arrested in California on Tuesday.

“Of course I am innocent of all these charges and we will prove that in court,” Barrack said in a statement after the Brooklyn hearing. He made reference to the Statue of Liberty and how it’s made of steel with a copper patina. “We’re in the middle of a very heated moment and I can only tell you that the hardest steel is forged from the hottest fire.”

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He appeared alongside his employee, Matthew Grimes, 27, who also faces charges from prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York. Barrack is accused of acting as an agent of the UAE in a yearslong effort to sway Trump’s foreign policy, both during the 2016 campaign and after his election, according to the seven-count felony indictment.

Barrack spent four days in jail after his July 20 arrest. He posted a $250 million bond Friday and agreed to wear a GPS ankle bracelet and limit his movements as part of a bail deal that allows him to be free ahead of his trial. It’s one of the biggest bonds posted in a criminal case in U.S. history.

“The charges that were presented to him today are based on information that was presented and discussed in my conference room two years ago,” Barrack’s lawyer, Matt Herrington, said outside court.

Grimes also pleaded not guilty. He posted a $5 million bond last week.

Both men have had to surrender their passports, adhere to a strict curfew and agree not fly on private planes.

No changes were made to the bail terms approved in Los Angeles, except Barrack will be allowed to travel to Colorado to live in his Aspen home. Their next court appearance will be on Sept. 2 before U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan.

The case is USA v Al Malik Alshahhi et al, 1:21-cr-00371, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).

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