(Bloomberg) — Tom Barrack is being questioned by federal prosecutors over a 2016 text message to a friend who made fun of his work on Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
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“I’m fighting for money,” Barack wrote.
The Colony Capital LLC founder faced intense cross-examination at trial on Thursday, accusing him of trying to influence U.S. policy as an unregistered United Arab Emirates agent. Prosecutor Samuel Nitze used the text to question Barak’s earlier testimony that his advice to the Trump campaign and administration was not motivated by investments in the UAE’s sovereign wealth.
“You didn’t say, when your friends asked, ‘I’m doing this to promote tolerance,'” Nitze noted, adding, “You didn’t say, ‘I’m doing this to help good people in America. The Middle East.'”
“I didn’t,” Barack replied.
The tough cross-examination that began Thursday afternoon highlighted the risks Barack took in testifying in his defense. On the witness stand in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, since Monday, Barack, under questioning from his own lawyers, has tried to suggest that he is largely trying to reassure UAE and Middle Eastern leaders about Trump’s racism about Muslims election speech.
Earlier on Thursday, Barak distanced himself from the $374 million inflows into his company from the UAE’s sovereign wealth fund. He claimed he was “not really” involved in raising a $300 million digital infrastructure fund that Abu Dhabi Investment Authority invested with Colony. He said he did not attend the meeting and that the rest of the team led work on the 2018 deal.
Part of the reason he kept his distance, Barack said, was the poor past performance of the Colony Fund. “My reputational capital in Abu Dhabi at the time was not that great,” he said, adding that “I chose not to be involved in the marketing process.”
Likewise, Barack said he had “hardly any” involvement in Mubadala Investment Co.’s $74 million investment in an office building in Los Angeles in 2017 and actually had strong skepticism about the project.
“My point is, I think it’s stupid and a waste of time, not a good use of Colony’s own balance sheet or capital,” Barack told jurors. But he said he voted to approve the deal as part of a 14-member investment committee.
Barak insisted there was no connection between his communications with Emirati officials, investments by the UAE’s sovereign wealth fund and his informal advice to the Trump campaign and administration. He testified Monday that his relationship with a friend holding the presidency turned out to be “catastrophic” for his business, as Trump’s split led to a “death march” for investors to exit the colony.
Nietzsche began his cross-examination, suggesting that Barak showed his friendship with Trump to Sheikh Tanou bin Zayed, the UAE’s national security adviser and influential business figure, with the aim of gaining a business advantage.
“The truth is that Sheikh Tahnoon likes what you’re offering – access, influence, information – and you agree to get it for him in hopes of a longer-term business relationship?” the prosecutor asked.
“No,” Barack replied.
“You lied to Mr. Kushner”
Nitze also questioned Barrack in an email from an Emirati businessman, which he forwarded to Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, accusing Barrack of tampering with it, saying he should be the campaign’s only point of contact with the UAE. At the time, Nietzsche suggested, Barack was vying for influence with two other campaign advisers with ties to the Middle East.
“You deceived Mr. Kushner,” prosecutors said. “You went into the email and changed the text of it and pretended that’s what it said.” Barack denies changing the email.
“One reason you made yourself a Donald Trump advocate is to make money?” Nietzsche asked. “One of the reasons you want to be Mr. Trump’s translator — interpreter — is because you want to make money?”
Barack answered “no” to both charges. He is expected to return to the stands on Monday.
The case is United States v. Al Malik Alshahhi, 21-cr-00371, United States District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).
——With the help of Song Zijia.
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