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Trump's inaugural committee chief accused of illegally lobbying for UAE

Chairman of the inaugural committee and real estate investor Thomas J. Barrack Jr.stops to talk to members of the media in the lobby of the Trump Tower in New York, N.Y., on January 10, 2017. Barrack was indicted for allegedly lobbying on behalf of the United Arab Emirates. File Pool photo by Anthony Behar/UPI
Chairman of the inaugural committee and real estate investor Thomas J. Barrack Jr.stops to talk to members of the media in the lobby of the Trump Tower in New York, N.Y., on January 10, 2017. Barrack was indicted for allegedly lobbying on behalf of the United Arab Emirates. File Pool photo by Anthony Behar/UPI | License Photo

July 20 (UPI) -- The chairman of former President Donald Trump's 2017 inaugural committee, Thomas Barrack, was indicted Tuesday in Brooklyn on charges he illegally lobbied Trump on behalf of the United Arab Emirates.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in the Eastern District of New York unsealed a seven-count indictment saying Barrack, 74, of Santa Monica, Calif., and two others -- Matthew Grimes and Rashid Sultan Rashid Al Malik Alshahhi -- conspired to act as agents of the UAE between April 2016 and April 2018.

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Authorities arrested Barrack and Grimes, 27, of Aspen, Colo., on Tuesday and the two were expected to appear at a federal courthouse in Los Angeles later in the day.

The indictment says the three men worked to advance UAE interests by influencing the policies of Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and administration. Barrack also faces charges of obstruction of justice and making false statements to federal officials.

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"As alleged, the defendants, using their positions of power and influence in a presidential election year, engaged in a conspiracy to illegally advance and promote the interests of the United Arab Emirates in this country, in flagrant violation of their obligation to notify the attorney general 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," said acting United States Attorney Jacquelyn Kasulis.

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Acting Assistant Attorney General Mark Lesko said the men's conduct "is nothing short of a betrayal of those officials in the United States, including the former president."

The Justice Department said Barrack served as an informal adviser to Trump's campaign between April 2016 and November 2016, and after that point, until November 2017, was chairman of the Presidential Inaugural Committee. After Trump's inauguration, Barrack served as an informal adviser to the U.S. government on issues related to the Middle East.

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Barrack was the executive chairman of global investment firm Colony Capital, where Grimes was employed. The indictment says Alshahhi, a UAE national, was in "frequent contact" with Barrack and Grimes.

"Barrack -- directly and through Alshahhi and Grimes -- was regularly and repeatedly in contact with the senior leadership of the UAE government," the Justice Department said. "On multiple occasions, Barrack referred to Alshahhi as the UAE's 'secret weapon' to advance its foreign policy agenda in the United States."

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