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Trump inauguration head charged with being foreign agent

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(NEW YORK) -- Tom Barrack, a longtime friend of Donald Trump's who chaired the committee that raised more than $100 million for his inauguration, has been charged with acting as an agent of a foreign government and obstruction of justice.

Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn said Tuesday that in 2016, Barrack illegally sought to use his influence with the new president on behalf of the United Arab Emirates.

In May 2016, according to the indictment, Barrack "took steps to establish himself as the key communications channel for the United Arab Emirates" to the Trump campaign and, that same month, gave a co-defendant a draft copy of an energy speech then-candidate Trump was preparing to deliver. The co-defendant then sent it to a UAE official and solicited feedback.

"Congrats on the great job today," court records quoted the Emirati official saying in an email to Barrack after Trump delivered the speech. "Everybody here are happy with the results."

A spokesman for Barrack, 74, told ABC News that "Mr. Barrack has made himself voluntarily available to investigators from the outset. He is not guilty and will be pleading not guilty."

At a court appearance in California, where he was arrested Tuesday morning, Barrack was ordered detained after prosecutors described him as "an extremely wealthy and powerful individual with substantial ties to Lebanon, the UAE, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia" who "poses a serious flight risk."

Between May 2016 and October 2017, Barrack "repeatedly promoted the United Arab Emirates and its foreign policy interests during media appearances" after soliciting direction from his co-defendant and UAE officials, the indictment said.

"The defendant promoted UAE-favored policy positions in the Campaign, in the Administration, and through the media, at times using specific language provided by UAE leadership," assistant U.S. Attorney Jacquelyn Kasulis wrote in the court filing. "The defendant never registered as an agent of the UAE, as public disclosure of his agreement to act at the direction of senior UAE officials would have diminished, if not eliminated, the access and influence that the UAE sought and valued."

The allegations involving Barrack came to light as part of a House Oversight Committee investigation, ABC News reported in July 2019.

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