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Saturday, January 29, 2022

Trump ally Barrack claims he is ‘100% innocent’ in anti-Qatar lobbying case


Barrack was arrested last week for illegally lobbying with the UAE in a bid to turn the US against Qatar.

Former US President Donald Trump’s ally Thomas Barrack has pleaded not guilty on Monday to charges of illegal lobbying for the UAE, claiming he is “100 percent innocent”.

“As you’d expect, the system is working. I think what you’ll find is that … over time, you’ll all see that I’m 100 percent innocent,” said 74-year-old billionaire Barrack as he left the court.

This was Barrack’s first court appearance at the Brooklyn federal court, days after he was released on a $250 million bail following his arrest last week.

He was detained in California for using his close relationship with the former US president to “secretly” serve UAE interests by influencing Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and administration.

“The defendants repeatedly capitalised 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,” Mark Lesko, acting assistant US attorney general for national security, said last week.

According the Reuters, US Magistrate Judge Sanket Bulsara in Brooklyn said Barrack may remain in his Colorado residence while awaiting trial, with the next hearing scheduled for 2 September before US District Judge Brian Cogan.

Trump ally accused of lobbying with UAE in anti-Qatar campaign

Barrack was among three people accused of the UAE lobbying scandal. His former employee Matthew Grimes and businessman Rashid al-Malik, a UAE citizen close to the royal family are also facing charges.

According to media reports, Grimes was also arrested in California on the same day, though al-Malik remains at large.

The accusations suggested the UAE had a major impact on Trump’s policy in the Middle East, most notably in 2017 when the UAE and Saudi Arabia declared a blockade against neighbouring Gulf state, Qatar.

Following Trump’s election in 2016, Barrack reportedly asked Al-Malik to send a “wish list” of US foreign policy targets that the UAE is expecting from the Trump administration, according to the Department of Justice.

In September 2017, Barrack persuaded Trump to not hold a summit at Camp David to address the GCC crisis after he announced intentions to bring rivals to the White House to work on ending the dispute.

The US government revealed that Barrack used a telephone with a secure messaging app to communicate with UAE officials, according to the indictment.

“Today’s indictment confirms the FBI’s unwavering commitment to rooting out those individuals who think they can manipulate the system to the detriment of the United States and the American people,” said FBI Assistant Director Calvin Shivers.

The draft message said Barrack reported that several senior US officials were trying to convince Trump “that Qatar is a victim! And that all of the other countries (Saudi, UAE) are also funding [terrorist] groups!!!”

On 5 June, 2017, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic ties with Doha and imposed an illegal land, sea, and air blockade over accusations it “supports terrorism”.

Qatar has consistently and vehemently denied those allegations.

Saudi Arabia immediately shut down its shared land border [also known as the Abu Samra crossing] with its neighbouring state, a critical trade entry point.

Riyadh’s heavy regional influence forced other countries to follow in its footsteps, namely Yemen, Mauritania and the Maldives.

Reports at the time revealed the Trump administration had encouraged the blockade, which was announced shortly after his visit to Saudi Arabia – his first overseas as president of the United States.

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