Thomas J Barrack, a billionaire, and longtime Donald Trump supporter was arrested in Los Angeles on suspicion of working as a foreign government agent.
The 74-year-old investment firm founder was a top fundraiser and acted as a key adviser to the former US president’s 2016 campaign.
During and after the campaign, Mr. Barrack is accused of illegally lobbying on behalf of the United Arab Emirates.
Mr. Barrack’s spokesman stated that he intends to enter a not guilty plea.
He is the most recent ex-Trump official to be charged with a federal crime.
Mr. Barrack is accused of conspiring with the FBI, obstructing justice, and making several false statements to the FBI during a 2019 interview.
According to the seven-page indictment, Matthew Grimes, a Mr. Barrack employee, and UAE national Rashid Sultan Rashid Al Malik Alshahhi, 43, are also charged.
The conduct described in the indictment, according to Acting Assistant Attorney General Mark Lesko, was “nothing short of a betrayal” of US officials, including Mr. Trump.
The three men are accused of attempting to advance the UAE government’s interests by influencing Trump officials and appearing in the media.
Mr. Barrack is accused of inserting wording complimenting the UAE into a Trump campaign speech in May 2016. Mr. Alshahhi was allegedly provided an advanced draft of the speech to pass on to UAE officials.
Senior UAE officials are also accused of providing the defendants with “talking points” for use in media appearances.
The charge statement adds, “After one presentation in which Barrack frequently complimented the UAE, Barrack emailed Alshahhi, ‘I nailed it… for the home team,’ referring to the UAE.”
The men also allegedly agreed to support a UAE-favored candidate for the position of US ambassador to Abu Dhabi.
Mr. Barrack is also said to have encouraged Mr. Grimes and Mr. Alshahhi to compile a “wish list” of US foreign policy objectives that the UAE desired to see accomplished during the Trump administration in December 2016, following the election.
Mr. Barrack and Mr. Grimes were both detained on Tuesday morning in California, while Mr. Alshahhi remains at large.
With the announcement, Mr. Barrack joins former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former Trump Organization lawyer Michael Cohen as the latest Trump aides to face criminal accusations.