Trump ally: ‘Dozens’ of my associates sought help on pardons

NEW YORK (AP) — A trusted friend of Donald Trump who’s facing federal foreign influence charges testified Thursday that “dozens” of people asked him for help in getting pardons from the former president.

Tom Barrack also told a jury at a trial in New York City that he never sought a pardon for himself, even after he learned he was under investigation for allegedly acting as a secret foreign agent for the United Arab Emirates.

Asked why, Barrack responded, “I never did anything wrong.”

Barrack, 75, didn’t name anyone he supported for a pardon. But he was a close associate of Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, who was convicted in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and later pardoned by Trump.

Barrack is a California private equity mogul and onetime chair of Trump’s inaugural committee. He has denied charges that he used his access to Trump to provide confidential information about the Republican administration to the UAE to advance the Emirates’ foreign policy and business interests.

Much of the government’s case has focused on emails and other back-channel communications between Barrack and his high-level leaders in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Prosecutors say those communications show how Barrack and his contacts conspired over how to win over Trump at a time when UAE officials were rewarding the financier by pouring tens of millions of dollars into his business ventures.

Under questioning by one of his lawyers that began Monday, Barrack sought to make a case that all his interactions with UAE leaders and Trump were part of legitimate effort to promote “understanding and tolerance” in the Middle East, including getting to Trump to tone down his anti-Muslim rhetoric. He said he also consulted with Manafort and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, someone he described as “brilliant.”

On cross-examination on Thursday, Barrack acknowledged that he played up his relationship with Trump to get a meeting with UAE national security advisor Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan and other leaders in the region. But he repeated denials that there was anything underhanded about his behavior.

Before being indicted, Barrack drew attention by raising $107 million for Trump’s inaugural celebration following the 2016 election. The event was scrutinized both for its lavish spending and for attracting foreign officials and businesspeople looking to lobby the new administration.

Barrack’s cross-examination as the last defense witness is set to continue on Monday. Closing arguments are expected later next week.