Billionaire investor Thomas Barrack tested Monday that his friend Donald Trump’s presidency was “disastrous” for his business.
Barrack made the comment while testing in his own criminal trial in federal court in Brooklyn, New York.
He has pleaded not guilty to charges of acting as an unregistered foreign agent, obstruction of justice and making false statements to the FBI. Barrack is accused of trying to leverage his long friendship with the former president to sway US foreign policy toward a “wish list” of priorities for the United Arab Emirates.
The 75-year-old California native, who led Trump’s 2016 presidential inaugural committee, revealed that he “thought that as soon as [Trump] was elected, he would be more moderate and more acceptable.”
However, Barrack testified, his connection to the administration made shareholders of his company, Colony Capital, “upset” and was the reason he said he was “sitting with all of you today.”
Asked about the impact on his business, Barrack said, “The owners of public shares vote with their feet.” And he added that with “the continued drama that this president found himself in … a lot of these institutional shareholders were upset that I was involved with the president.”
When asked if he regrets his support for Trump’s campaign and his association with the administration once in office, Barrack told the jury, “in hindsight, unquestionably,” adding that politicians, regardless of party, are “just involved in ugliness.”
Barrack also had the opportunity to recount his decades-old friendship with the former president, which dated back to the 1980s. He said Trump had previously mentioned his interest in a run for the White House, but that he had mostly used it as a bargaining chip for his contract for the reality TV show “The Apprentice.”
When Trump developed a genuine interest in running for president in 2015, Barrack was supportive.
“I thought this is an amazing thing in America that you can take a well-meaning entrepreneur person like Donald Trump and enter the fray, and it’s a good thing for the system,” Barrack said.
Barrack told the jury that his firm did business with other nations like the UAE’s regional rival, Qatar, whose investment in Colony was “undoubtedly” more significant than the United Arab Emirates. He tested that it would be “impossible” to act as an agent of one of these countries because investors want to know “that no one has an edge” and that “they are all equal.”
Barrack’s testimony came a day after Trump posted on his social media platform about the case, disputing the prosecutors’ charges.
Trump called Barrack “a highly respected businessman whose DREAM was to see PEACE IN THE MIDDLE EAST.” He accused the Justice Department of having been “weaponized.”
“He NEVER spoke to me about ‘speeches’ and what to say on this subject. He is being unfairly persecuted only because he is a supporter of ‘Trump,'” the former president wrote.
Trump and Barrack have spoken at least once since the trial kicked off last month, according to a source familiar with the matter.
On Friday, defense attorneys for Barrack made the surprise announcement that they planned to call him as a witness in his own defense as the trial nears its conclusion. His testimony will continue into Tuesday.
The trial, which is now entering its sixth week, is focusing on the defense’s case after the government rested last week. Jurors have heard testimony from some of Barrack’s professional network and from members of President Trump’s Cabinet.
The government called former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to the stand on Oct. 3. Tillerson, whose tenure lasted from February 2017 through March 2018, said he didn’t know Barrack was communicating with Emirati officials and never asked for Barrack’s involvement in foreign policy discussions.
Last week, former Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who served all four years of the Trump administration, undermined the government’s case against Barrack when he tested. Mnuchin said Barrack supported Qatar during the economic blockade imposed by its neighbors, including the UAE against Qatar. The blockade was endorsed by Trump.
Tillerson was also questioned about a planned summit at Camp David, at which Trump hoped to resolve the blockade of Qatar. Mnuchin would not expand upon discussions regarding Camp David, citing executive privilege. The summit never took place.
Barrack, along with his former assistant, Matthew Grimes, and business associate, Rashid Al Malik, were charged in July 2021. At the time, Barrack was executive chairman of investment firm Colony Capital, now known as DigitalBridge. He has since stepped down. Grimes entered not guilty pleas to charges of acting as an unregistered foreign agent. Al Malik, who was also charged with acting as an unregistered foreign agent, has not been located by law enforcement.
Attorneys for Barrack and Grimes have said their communications with UAE officials were related to their business dealings. They’ve said Trump and the US State Department were aware of Barrack’s international business relationships.