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Tom Barrack, friend and former fundraiser for Trump, faces trial for UAE ties

Thomas J. Barrack Jr., who was chairman of Donald Trump's 2016 Inaugural Committee, speaks to the press at Trump Tower in New York City on January 10, 2017. File Photo by Anthony Behar/UPI
Thomas J. Barrack Jr., who was chairman of Donald Trump's 2016 Inaugural Committee, speaks to the press at Trump Tower in New York City on January 10, 2017. File Photo by Anthony Behar/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 19 (UPI) -- Jury selection in New York City was scheduled to begin Monday in the trial of Thomas Barrack, a close friend and former fundraiser to Donald Trump who's accused of improperly acting as a foreign agent during Trump's presidency.

Barrack, a billionaire investor, was arrested and indicted by a grand jury a year ago over accusations that he unlawfully used his friendship with Trump to lobby his administration on behalf of the United Arab Emirates.

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Barrack was released on a $250 million bond and has pleaded not guilty to the charges in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

Matthew Grimes, an employee of Barrack's, was also charged and pleaded not guilty and a third man, Rashid Al Malik, has not yet been located.

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According to the indictment, Barrack informally advised senior U.S. officials on foreign policy in the Middle East and sought to be appointed as special envoy to the region beginning in January 2017 when Trump took office.

Individuals acting as an agent of a foreign government are required to notify the U.S. attorney general.

In its indictment, the grand jury found that there was enough evidence to show that top UAE officials "tasked" Barrack and his co-defendants with "influencing public opinion" and "obtaining information about foreign policy positions" as well as "developing a back channel line of communication" to Trump.

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Prosecutors say that Barrack continued to promote UAE foreign policy interests during media appearances through October 2017 "after soliciting direction" from Al Malik.

The grand jury indictment says Al Malik, Grimes and Barrack at one point began drafting a proposed strategy for the UAE to increase its political influence in the United States beginning in mid-2016. The strategy recommended the UAE use its financial investments to increase "influence with USA and European governments and people."

The indictment says UAE officials, through Al Malik and Barrack, also sought to influence the Trump administration to consider designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a foreign terrorist organization. The co-defendants further arranged discussions between the top UAE officials and Trump, including phone calls and meetings at the White House with senior officials from Saudi Arabia.

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Prosecutors say that Barrack also repeatedly lied to the FBI about his activities and was charged with obstruction of justice.

Former federal prosecutor Antonia Apps told CBS News that the charge of working as an undisclosed foreign agent has been used for decades in cases involving espionage.

Barrack has denied wrongdoing and filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department in July, which seeks an injunction to force the department to provide a list of current and recent registrations of foreign agents he'd requested under the Freedom of Information Act.

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"The information requested has a strong likelihood of constituting exculpatory evidence in connection with Mr. Barrack's upcoming trial, and as such, is critical to the preservation of Mr. Barrack's due process rights," the suit says.

Barrack's trial is expected to last about five weeks.

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