Tom Barrack, Longtime Trump Adviser, Faces Scrutiny Over Close Ties To Middle East

Democrats on the House Oversight Committee say Barrack worked to modify a Trump speech in 2016 to make it more pro-Middle East.

Tom Barrack, a longtime friend and informal adviser to President Donald Trump, worked to modify a major energy speech given in 2016 by then-candidate Trump to be more pro-Middle East, according to a new report released by Democrats on the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Monday.

When Trump was elected and assumed office just months later in 2017, Barrack also moved to secure powerful roles in the administration, including special envoy to the Middle East and the ambassadorship to the United Arab Emirates, while also pushing for the U.S. to ease restrictions on transferring nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia, the report claims. The contents of the report were first detailed by ABC News and The New York Times.

The allegations detailed in the findings, which rely on more than 60,000 pages of documents and statements from whistleblowers, underscore what Democrats say is a far-reaching effort to influence U.S. foreign policy by officials abroad and those at home with close ties to the president. Several federal investigations are still underway to discover any possible foreign influence on the Trump campaign, even after the conclusion of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. 

“Today’s report reveals new and extensive evidence that corroborates Committee whistleblowers and exposes how corporate and foreign interests are using their unique access to advocate for the transfer of U.S. nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia,” Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the chairman of the oversight committee, said in a statement. “The American people deserve to know the facts about whether the White House is willing to place the potential profits of the President’s personal friends above the national security of the American people and the universal objective of preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.” 

Barrack, who has had significant business relationships in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, released a statement after the report was made public, saying his “engagement in investment and business development throughout the Middle East for the purpose of better aligned Middle East and U.S. objectives are well known, as are his more than four decades of respected relationships throughout the region.”

“Mr. Barrack’s consistent attempts to bridge the divide of tolerance and understanding between these two great cultures is etched in the annals of time,” the statement says. “This is not political it is essential.”

Barrack requested he be interviewed by federal investigators in June as part of their probe, and he has not been accused of any wrongdoing. His spokesman told The Washington Post on Monday that prosecutors say they have no more questions for him, even after the release of the committee’s report.

The White House did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.

The report details an instance in 2016 when Trump was preparing to give a major speech on energy policy in North Dakota. Dubbed his “America First” energy plan, Trump hoped to tout his support for the fossil fuel industry. But Barrack reportedly sent a copy of the speech to an associate who was close to the leaders of the UAE for feedback. The man, Rashid Al-Malik, then sent it to Emirati and Saudi officials and shared suggestions to include pro-Persian Gulf language in the speech.

Barrack then passed those changes on to then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, which included having Trump reference the leaders of the two Middle Eastern nations. Some of the suggestions ultimately made it into Trump’s remarks as he added: “We will work with our Gulf allies to develop a positive energy relationship as part of our anti-terrorism strategy.”

The committee also found that in 2017 Barrack sought several top positions in the White House related to the Middle East. But during that same period, Democrats claim he attempted to use his relationship with the president to advocate on behalf of efforts to transfer American nuclear technology to the Saudis. Any deal likely would have benefited Barrack’s own financial interests.

The report notes that Barrack did not register as a foreign lobbyist at the time, although he says he was not working on behalf of foreign governments.

The Post notes that, though the Trump administration has allowed American energy companies to share some sensitive technology with the Saudis, a full transfer of nuclear schematics has not gone forward. House Democrats released a report centered on those negotiations in February and has been investigating initiatives within the Trump White House to see them through. 

Read the full report below:

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