Trump pal called a liar; defense says he had nothing to hide

NEW YORK (AP) — A longtime associate of Donald Trump purposely tried to mislead a jury about how he used his access to the former Republican president to secretly promote the interests of the United Arab Emirates, a prosecutor said Tuesday at a foreign influence trial.

Tom Barrack “was not being honest” when he took the witness stand last week to deny he was provided confidential information to the UAE, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan Harris said in closing arguments. “He came into this courthouse and lied.”

Defense attorney Randall Jackson countered by telling jurors Barrack had no reason to lie because he had nothing to hide.

“This whole prosecution has been an act of misdirection,” Jackson said. He added that prosecutors “produced no evidence of a motive in this case – zero.”

Barrack, 75, is a longtime friend of Trump and California billionaire who chaired Trump’s inaugural committee in 2017. He has pleaded not guilty to charges accusing him of acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign government, obstruction of justice and making false statements.

Harris said that the evidence showed the defendant schemed to become the “eyes, ears and the voice” for the Emirates as part of a criminal conspiracy to manipulate Trump’s foreign policy. At the same time. he leveraged his back-channel connections to get the UAE to pump tens of millions of dollars into an office building he was developing and into one of his investment funds, he added.

The prosecutor pointed to what he characterized as a steady steam of shady texts and other communications that showed that Barrack was under the direction and control of Rashid al Malik, a businessman from the UAE who acted as a conduit to the rulers the oil-rich Persian Gulf state.

Barrack “marketed himself as politically connected. Someone who could open doors for the UAE. Someone who could offer access to Donald Trump. … He was going to be their man on the inside,” Harris said.

Al Malik asked Barrack “to do things for the UAE again and again,” he said.

Jackson said Barrack made no attempt to conceal his relationships with Al Malik or his network of business connections he had cultivated throughout the Middle East. He also said it “makes no sense” that his client would try to infiltrate the Trump campaign on the behalf of the UAE at a time when Trump’s chances of winning the presidency were considered a longshot.

“He was involved in the campaign because he’s loyal to his friends – maybe to a fault,” the lawyer said.

Last week, Barrack testified that “dozens” of people asked him for help in getting pardons from the former president. He also said he never sought a pardon for himself, even after he learned he was under investigation.

Asked why, he responded, “I never did anything wrong.”

Barrack, an Arabic speaker of Lebanese descent, also described efforts to arrange for Trump to meet with UAE national security advisor Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan and other officials from more moderate governments in an effort to persuade Trump to tone down his his anti-Muslim rhetoric.

“I was trying to get common ground, to try to get him to step back from what he didn’t believe,” he said.

Jury deliberations are expected to begin on Wednesday.

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