Trump’s 1st Secretary of State Testifies He Never Asked Tom Barrack To ‘Do Diplomacy’ For US

Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson testified Monday at the illegal foreign lobbying trial of former Donald Trump ally Tom Barrack that he never asked Barrack to undertake any diplomatic work on behalf of the United States during his years as Trump’s secretary of state.

“Have you ever asked Tom Barack to commit any diplomacy on behalf of the United States?” asked prosecutor Hiral Mehta.

“No,” Tillerson replied.

Barrack, a billionaire California businessman who chaired Trump’s 2016 inaugural committee, is currently on trial in federal court in Brooklyn for allegedly illegally lobbying on behalf of the United Arab Emirates before and during the Trump administration. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges, which Barrack’s defense attorney has dismissed as ridiculous.

“[The government’s] accusations are nothing short of ridiculous. Tom Barrack was never under anyone’s management. Tom Barrack was never under anyone’s control,” Michael Schachter, Barrack’s attorney, said during opening statements. “Tom Barrack was his own man [and] said things because he wanted to.”

PHOTO: Former US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson testifies during the trial of Thomas Barrack, a billionaire heir to Donald Trump who chaired the former president's inauguration fund, at the Brooklyn Federal Courthouse in New York, October 3, 2022.

Former US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson testifies during the trial of Thomas Barrack, a billionaire heir to Donald Trump who chaired the former president’s inauguration fund, at the Brooklyn Federal Courthouse in New York, October 3, 2022.

Jane Rosenberg/Reuters

Tillerson, the former US top diplomat, said during his three hours on the stand that he had no knowledge of Barrack’s communications with the UAE. Prosecutors argue that failing to register as a lobbyist for these communications constitutes a felony.

But Tillerson also admitted there were conversations about foreign policy that he wasn’t always a part of, including between Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner — who he said was also in communication with administration officials, but not always in lockstep. .

“It was clear that at times Mr. Kushner engaged with the same officials on the same issues that I engaged with them on, and that those messages were not consistent,” Tillerson said.

Either way, he emphasized the importance of transparency around relations with foreign governments.

“You always, in any communication, want to understand the context in which the information is coming to you,” Tillerson said.

Tillerson also testified that his dealings with Barrack were limited, but that Barrack had called him “on a couple of occasions” to discuss a potential ambassadorship.

“I remember him expressing interest in serving as ambassador,” said Tillerson, who said he brought the idea up to Trump, who “didn’t direct [him] somehow” on the idea.

Trump’s 1st Secretary of State Testifies He Never Asked Tom Barrack To ‘Do Diplomacy’ For US

Rex Tillerson attends a conference in Warsaw, Poland, on January 27, 2018.

NurPhoto via Getty Images, FILE

On cross-examination, the defense tried to normalize Barrack’s contacts with the United Arab Emirates by comparing them to Tillerson’s own contacts with foreign officials during his time as CEO of Exxon Mobil.

Tillerson testified that he took over a hundred foreign trips and met with dozens of foreign officials while serving in the private role, including in the Middle East and Russia, in his efforts to advance his company’s interests.

“The fact that you interacted with government officials in Russia… in no way meant that you adopted all of their views or operated under their control, did it?” asked Randall Jackson, Barrack’s attorney.

“We represent our views at all times, no one else’s,” said Tillerson, who has since retired.

But Tillerson said during that time he was exploring registration.

“I had my lawyers look at the law,” Tillerson said, “and I wanted to be sure.”

Barrack was arrested in California in July 2021, accused of using his connection to Trump to covertly advance UAE interests. The trial is expected to last five weeks, lawyers said at a hearing earlier this year.

According to the indictment, the UAE worked through Barrack “to influence US foreign policy in the first 100 days, 6 months, 1 year and 4 years of the Trump administration.”

The UAE funds committed nearly $400 million to Barrack’s investment management firm, the indictment said, although it did not make clear whether Barrack’s firm ever received the money.

The indictment, released last July, also accused Barrack of obstructing justice and making multiple false statements during a June 20, 2019, interview with federal law enforcement agents.

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