Billionaire Tom Barrack, the former chairman of Donald Trump’s inaugural committee, will stand trial later this year on allegations that he acted as an unregistered agent of the United Arab Emirates.
Senior U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan, a George W. Bush appointee on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, set a trial date for Sept. 12.
Indicted in July, Barrack stands accused 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. Prosecutors also claim that Barrack obstructed justice by lying to federal agents during an interview of June 20, 2019. Barrack is charged under the same statute used against Russian agent Maria Butina.
Before a hearing last year, a protester held a placard with the word “TRAITOR” in black block capital letters as he pursued Barrack en route to a federal court in Brooklyn. Fellow Trump loyalists Paul Manafort and Roger Stone received the same reception from hecklers during their trials, CNBC noted.
Two other men—Aspen, Colorado resident Matthew Grimes and UAE national Rashid Sultan Rashid Al Malik Alshahhi (also known as Rashid Al Malik and Rashid Al-Malik)—are Barrack’s co-defendants in the seven-count indictment. The latter man remains at large.
Court records suggest that prosecutors have been busy sharing information with the defense since the case began.
“Since the last status conference in this matter, the government has made three additional productions totaling more than 80,000 files,” prosecutors wrote in a letter dated Jan. 3. “At this stage, the government has produced the vast majority of discoverable material currently in its possession. The government will continue to collect, review and produce new discoverable material on a rolling basis as it comes into the government’s possession.”
Barrack and Grimes intend to try to dismiss the indictment, and future pre-trial hearings will wrangle over the issue of the Classified Information Procedures Act.
Shortly before Christmas, prosecutors notified Grimes that the funding of his legal defense by Barrack could pose a conflict of interest for him.
Judge Cogan, however, indicated during the hearing that there would be a “low risk of me disqualifying” Grimes’s current counsel.
When the indictment was first unsealed, then-Acting Assistant Attorney General Mark Lesko of the Justice Department’s National Security Division alleged that the trio “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.”
Barrack has awaited trial after being released on a $250 million bond secured by $5 million in cash.
A follow-up status conference has been set for March 22 at 5 p.m.
Judge Cogan said his preference is for in-person proceedings, but that will depend upon the state of the pandemic.
“I don’t want anyone to get sick,” Cogan said.
(Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
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