Document: Barrack and Emirati Associate Sought to Displace Diplomats, Kushner

In a complaint filed in 2019, the government revealed more of its evidence against the Trump confidant

Thomas Barrack, center, a close adviser to former President Donald Trump and chair of his inaugural committee, leaves after attending his arraignment at the US District Court of Eastern District of New York on July 26, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Kena Betancur / AFP)

Dear Readers,

According to a recently unsealed charging document, former president Trump’s friend, advisor, and confidant Thomas Barrack had more extensive communications than previously known with his alleged Emirati coconspirator, Rashid Al-Malik, about their efforts to create a secret backchannel circumventing the ordinary conduct of foreign affairs.

In one April 2016 exchange documented in the complaint, which is not included in Barrack’s indictment, Barrack wrote to Al-Malik that an Emirati official, thought to be Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed (MBZ), ought to be aware that Barrack had a “close personal relationship with a UAE diplomat in the United States.” Al-Malik wrote back, according to the complaint:

“Yes, I know, but he [the UAE diplomat] can’t do what you do and never will be! … What we do he will never be able to do as diplomats!”

The exchange is significant because it puts the defendants squarely in the zone of concern of the statute they’ve been charged under, 18 USC 951, which prohibits agents of foreign governments from operating in the United States without prior notice to the Attorney General, with exceptions for diplomats and certain commercial transactions.

The next month, according to the complaint, Barrack traveled to the UAE to meet with officials there. During his day of meetings, he sent updates to an official on the Trump campaign, mentioning the possibility of a meeting between UAE leaders and candidate Trump, whom the complaint refers to as “the Candidate.” Three days later, Barrack wrote to Al-Malik to confirm that he’d brokered a meeting: “Tell [the senior UAE government official] to pack his bags. [The Candidate] is the man.”

“Amazing,” Al-Malik responded, and later followed up: “They just called me that [the UAE government official] will see us again when he comes to the US next month before meeting with [the Candidate]!”

The next day, Barrack sought clarification:

“So I have permission to tell [the Candidate] [that] [a senior UAE government official] will specifically come to NYC to meet with [the Candidate] directly and that should be the main means of communication with the UAE[?]”

“Absolutely and 100%,” Al-Malik replied. Although investigators concluded the planned meeting ultimately did not occur, this exchange—which is also not included in the indictment—is significant because it shows that the defendants were attempting to define an exclusive channel of communications between the leaders of a foreign state and a presidential candidate.

The complaint also includes more details of the effort to create a secure line of communication between Barrack and UAE officials on a dedicated phone and the substantive back and forth between Barrack and the UAE about the drafting of some of Trump’s public statements, particularly a summer 2016 speech focused on energy.

The allegations concerning Trump’s speech contain an entertaining back and forth, not mentioned in the indictment, when a campaign official writes to Barrack to tell him that the speech is becoming “more political” and some language specifically naming senior UAE and Saudi officials—which, the complaint indicates, the UAE and Saudi governments had jointly worked on and sent to Barrack—would be deleted. Barrack wrote back:

“I think this is novice and imbecilic but perhaps that’s the direction it needs to go! … Nonetheless he better figure out a way to get one paragraph to balance foreign-policy concerns for energy dependent allies in the gulf.”

The campaign official official responds by asking for a language insert that “works for our friends.” According to the complaint, Barrack forwarded the few sentences he proposed to the campaign official to Al-Malik, who says: “So no mention of names.” Barrack wrote back, “No. Delicate time. [UAE Official 1] should have come!”

(UAE Official 1 is thought to be Crown Prince MBZ because of a reference to one of Barrack’s media appearances—a Bloomberg television interview—later in the complaint, which is also included in the indictment. The video of that interview shows that Barack identifies “Sheikh Mohamed” in the place where the complaint and the indictment say he referred to UAE Official 1.)

Fast forward to the first year of Trump’s presidency, and the complaint captures an exchange between Barrack and Al-Malik commiserating about the appointment of a “U.S. official” to handle the Trump administration’s affairs in the Middle East—pretty obviously Jared Kushner.

“Not the best,” Barrack grumbles about the appointment, but assures Al-Malik that he’ll remain on the sidelines “to help” the UAE, because Kushner “will not be fruitful for them.”

Al-Malik replies, according to the complaint, that Kushner’s missteps would show “who can really run things with [the Middle East]! Only you.”

“Us!!” Barrack corrects him. “They will all become frustrated soon.”

Barrack was accused in last week’s indictment of acting as an unregistered foreign agent of the United Arab Emirates during the 2016 campaign, the transition, and the Trump administration. The indictment spelled out a fairly extensive case that Barrack and his younger associate, Matthew Grimes, worked with Al-Malik to carry out the wishes of Emirati officials, but it did not included several exchanges in the complaint, including those detailed above. It’s not clear why these exchanges didn’t make it into the indictment; as spokesperson for the federal prosecutors bringing the case declined to comment.

Barrack and Grimes made their first appearance in the federal district court in the Eastern District of New York for an arraignment today, after being arrested in California on the day their indictment was unsealed last week. They both entered not guilty pleas and had their bail packages continued, with the stipulation that Barrack can travel to his residence in Aspen, Colorado.

The complaint against Al-Malik was first filed, and an arrest warrant issued, in June 2019, and he was indicted alongside Barrack and Grimes this month. According to DOJ, Al-Malik remains at large. He left the United States in April 2018 shortly after being interviewed for the investigation that led to the indictment, and he has not returned since.

Updated 3:54 p.m. ET to add detail about UAE and Saudi governments collaborating on Trump speech insert and to include no comment from EDNY.