Thomas Barrack — former owner of Neverland Ranch, Happy Canyon Vineyards owner, local polo padrone, and more significantly one of Donald Trump’s biggest campaign fundraisers — was indicted on federal charges for not registering as an agent representing foreign governments, in this case the United Arab Emirates.
In addition, Barrack was charged with lying to FBI investigators who questioned him about his ties to Persian Gulf nations in an interview in June 2019.
The indictment, which includes seven counts, was issued by the Justice Department’s national security division. Barrack was arrested in L.A. County.
“The defendant repeatedly capitalized on Barrack’s friendships and access to a candidate who was eventually elected president, high-ranking campaign and government officials, and the American media to advance the policy goals of a foreign government without disclosing their true allegiances,” said Mark Lesko, acting assistant attorney general.
A real-estate mogul of global proportion, Barrack founded Colony Capital, and his business dealings with Trump date back to the 1980s. According to press accounts of those transactions, Barrack had a habit of coming out on top.
When Trump first ran for president, it would be Barrack who would connect him with such key campaign aides as Paul Manafort and Richard Gates, both of whom would run seriously afoul of the law.
Barrack raised $23 million to get Trump elected; he worked the TV talk show circuit to perfection, exuding a quiet calm on Trump’s behalf at a time when Trump himself seemed intent on setting the world’s hair on fire.
It was Barrack who headed the fundraising for Trump’s inauguration event, generating no less than $107 million, still a staggering sum. Given the underwhelming nature of that celebration, Barrack became the subject of scrutiny by federal investigators. Where did all the money come from, they asked, and what was its real purpose?
Stories started to surface suggesting that Barrack was playing Trump on behalf of foreign governments and foreign investors. Others insisted Barrack was working all sides against the other to keep his real estate empire — then starting to show signs of distress — afloat. Barack, always cool under fire, insisted he was a loyal friend and supporter.
Barrack, like Trump, energetically courted Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. When bin Salman was implicated in the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi — a Saudi dissident, columnist for the Washington Post, and nephew of former Hope Ranch residents Essam and Layla Khashoggi — Barrack lost his usual cool and responded to a critical questioner, “Whatever happened in Saudi Arabia, the atrocities in America are equal, or worse, to the atrocities in Saudi Arabia.”
Federal authorities have stated they consider Barrack a serious flight risk, given his assets and the seriousness of the charges, and have asked that he be detained.