Former President Donald Trump’s “divisive” policies destroyed his billionaire heir’s business, real estate financier Tom Barrack said at his criminal trial in New York City on Monday.
“Spasmodic,” he said, describing how his personal relationship with Trump affected his multibillion-dollar global investment business.
Barrack’s case presents a rare sight: an incredibly wealthy baron facing the real threat of prison time. He is accused of putting the nation’s security at risk by abusing his position of influence and power with the Trump administration to make secret deals with the United Arab Emirates.
In this hemo trial, which began last month, federal prosecutors are trying to prove that Barrack abused the access he was given to the president-elect by using it to secretly lobby on behalf of Arab royals. For example, an indictment updated in May alleged that Barrack quietly tweaked the GOP platform at the 2016 Republican National Convention — taking care to avoid any mention of the Saudi royal family’s connection to the 9/11 hijackers.
For the jurors, the trial has also become a crash course in the complex and often paradoxical American diplomacy in the Middle East. The feds have had to thread a needle describing their fractured relationship with rival royal families in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, maintaining that they are indeed friendly at times – but not as trustworthy as one might assume, and certainly “not allies,” as one prosecutor put it.
The lawsuit is also timely as the Justice Department portrays the Saudis as reluctant friends on the global stage, as the Biden administration vows that the country will suffer “consequences” after its leaders rejected the US president’s request to hold down oil prices – and instead went on Russia’s side by voting to cut production from the 13 countries that make up the oil cartel known as OPEC.
The investment mogul is a longtime friend of Trump’s from the celebrity’s heyday in the 1980s New York real estate world. Barrack’s early support for Trump was instrumental in Wall Street rallying behind the Republican in 2016. He would go on to lead Trump’s inauguration celebrations, which were mired in allegations of self-dealing and corruption that ended in a settlement with the District of Columbia public prosecutor.
But on the stand Monday, Barrack frowned and shifted uncomfortably in his seat as he lamented the four years of chaos that followed — and appeared to blame his association with Trump for his legal troubles today.
“Would it have been better to support someone else?” asked his defense attorney.
“In hindsight, no doubt,” Barrack moaned, citing the “continued drama this president found himself in.”
Barrack testified that Trump’s racist Muslim ban and nonstop political scandals made it harder for investment firm Colony Capital to keep alive its business relationships with Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
“I thought he would change. The style was something that I and others didn’t appreciate,” he said.
When asked how Trump affected his professional life, Barrack began to point the finger at the former president for his current legal troubles.
“I’m sitting with all of you today,” he said, before prosecutors cut him off with an objection, preventing Barrack from finishing the sentence.
Barrack refrained from criticizing the anti-democracy MAGA movement too harshly, visibly playing jurors with “both sides” talk.
“I never imagined that … we could have the dilemma … we can’t talk to each other without debate … on all sides,” he said. “They’re all trying to do the right thing. It’s just ugly.”
The firm Barrack founded, Colony Capital, renamed DigitalBridge Group shortly before the Feds arrested him in Los Angeles and charged him in the current criminal case. Barrack stepped down from the board and stepped down as CEO.