NEW YORK (Reuters) – A fundraiser for former U.S. President Donald Trump said prosecutors were wrong to imply that his firm sought investment from United Arab Emirates sovereign wealth funds as a “quid pro quo” for lobbying for the Gulf country.
Thomas Barrack, who chaired Trump’s 2017 inaugural fund and was a frequent guest at the White House, is set to go on trial next month in federal court in Brooklyn on charges of lobbying the Trump administration for the UAE without disclosing the relationship, as lobbyists are required to do by law.
Prosecutors said in May that an investment management firm Barrack ran received capital commitments from the unnamed UAE funds totaling $374 million in 2017, after receiving no new funds from the country from 2009 to 2016.
Barrack has pleaded not guilty.
In a possible preview of the 75-year-old investor’s defense strategy, Barrack’s lawyers on Friday said others at Barrack’s firm, DigitalBridge Group Inc, sought the UAE investment. They asked U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan to issue subpoenas for the other employees’ communications.
“Such evidence tends to undermine the Government’s allegation that Mr. Barrack agreed to act subject to the UAE’s direction or control in exchange for UAE sovereign wealth fund investments,” Barrack’s lawyers wrote in a court filing.
The lawyers disputed the implication that the investment was “somehow a quid pro quo from UAE government’s leaders in exchange for Mr. Barrack’s supposed agency.”
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Brooklyn did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Prospective jurors for Barrack’s trial were set to begin filling out questionnaires on Monday to help the court and lawyers for both sides select the panel, court records showed. The trial is set to begin on Sept. 17.
(Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York; editing by Grant McCool)
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