A new report from The New York Times reveals that federal prosecutors are looking at potential foreign influence over President Donald Trump’s campaign. The report claims that federal authorities have been examining the relationship between Thomas J. Barrack Jr., a top Trump fundraiser and close friend of the president; Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman; and representatives of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia.
Investigators are reportedly interested in whether Barrack or others are guilty of attempting to influence American policy or opinion for foreign governments or entities without disclosing their activities to the Justice Department.
According to Tommy Davis, Barrack’s former chief of staff, who still works for him, the private equity real estate investigator was working only on behalf of himself.
“The ideas he was giving voice to were his ideas,” he said. “These are ideas that he has been advocating for decades.”
But interestingly, The Intercept reported in June that U.S. intelligence has labeled Rashid al-Malik, an Emirati businessman who reportedly has close ties to the UAE and whom The New York Times claims was one of Barrack’s contacts, was a paid spy for the UAE throughout 2017. He reportedly provided intelligence to the UAE about the Trump administration’s Middle East policy, was given a code name, and was paid tens of thousands of dollars to gather information.
"Thomas J. Barrack, a confidant of President Trump who served as chairman of his inaugural committee, apologized on Wednesday for statements he made defending Saudi Arabia after the killing of the journalist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi" @maggienyt. https://t.co/WTgOPcFr1h— Michael Tackett (@tackettdc) February 14, 2019
In addition, Ali al-Shamsi, the director of the Emirati National Intelligence Service that was allegedly overseeing al-Malik, is reportedly “a discreet messenger” for Mohammed bin Zayed and his brother Tahnoun bin Zayed, the UAE’s national security adviser.
“Al-Shamsi and the Emirati government clearly think they can influence Trump by doing business with him,” said a person with direct knowledge of UAE intelligence operations who chose to speak anonymously.
As for Barrack, a memo from his firm, Colony Capital, was revealed by ProPublica earlier this year. The memo outlines a plan for the company to profit off of connections to the Trump administration and foreign VIPs. The plan was reportedly written by Rick Gates, Paul Manafort’s longtime associate, who ended up being snagged by the Mueller investigation and pleaded to conspiracy and lying to the FBI.
“The purpose of the Washington DC office is to expand Colony Northstar’s global footprint and build a bridge to where government and business intersect globally,” the memo reads. “The key is to strategically cultivate domestic and international relations while avoiding any appearance of lobbying.”
Of course, a Colony spokesperson said that the plan was “never acted upon or implemented.”