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Senior UAE officials, including MBZ, met with Trump insider Tom Barrack: Report

The UAE's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, national security adviser, and intelligence director worked to direct Barrack’s influence campaign, according to Bloomberg
The Barrack indictment refers to a phone call between an official and Trump on 29 January 2017, a date when MBZ is reported to have spoken to Trump.
The Barrack indictment refers to a phone call between an official and Trump on 29 January 2017, a date when MBZ is reported to have spoken to Trump (AFP)
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Washington

Tom Barrack, a key Trump ally arrested earlier this year for illegal lobbying on behalf of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), met with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (MBZ) and other top Emirati officials just weeks after former President Donald Trump's election, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday.

People familiar with the matter told Bloomberg that in December 2016, Barrack met with MBZ, his brother - UAE national security adviser Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed al-Nahyan, and director of the Emirati intelligence service Ali Mohammed Hammad al-Shamsi.

According to the seven-count indictment brought against the longtime Trump ally, the officials who hosted Barrack during the reception were referred to as Emirati Officials 1, 2 and 3.

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US prosecutors say the meeting was part of a secret back-channel campaign to influence the incoming Trump administration's foreign policy, the newspaper reported.

The three officials along with a fourth - named by people familiar with the issue as Abdullah Khalifa al-Ghafli - were tasked with pushing Abu Dhabi's interests in the US, according to Bloomberg.

The fifth official in the indictment, Emirati Official 5, was identified as Yousef al-Otaiba, the UAE's ambassador to the US, according to Bloomberg, which cited sources who asked not to be identified.

Middle East Eye previously reported that two of the previously unidentified officials appeared to be MBZ and Otaiba.

The July indictment refers to a phone call between an official identified as "Emirati Official 1" and Trump on 29 January 2017, a date when MBZ is reported to have spoken to Trump.

Middle East Eye reached out to the UAE embassy in Washington for comment but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

A media representative for Barrack's lawyer and the US Department of Justice declined to comment.

'Friends don't illegally interfere in other's democracy'

Barrack was arrested on 20 July on charges that he and two associates were part of a secret effort to shape Trump's foreign policy to the benefit of the UAE. He has since been released on bail set at $250m and pleaded not guilty.

Meanwhile, none of the UAE officials that worked with Barrack have been charged in the case.

The indictment claimed that Barrack helped the Emiratis on several fronts, including helping to arrange a White House call with Trump and pushing the Gulf country's preferred candidates for positions in the new administration.

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It also revealed that the Emiratis floated a draft "wish list" of foreign policy positions that would benefit the UAE and they were able to influence the language of a May 2016 speech by then-candidate Trump.

Ben Freeman, director of the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative at the Center for International Policy, told MEE that the naming of the Emirati officials shows that Abu Dhabi is not the US ally it appears to be.

"The UAE officials being named means this was a conspiracy to interfere in US politics coordinated by the very top of the UAE government. After this revelation, anyone that thinks the UAE is a 'friend' of the US should think twice. Friends don't illegally interfere in each other's democracies," said Freeman.

"Even prior to this, the context clues in the indictment led many to assume these were the officials involved."

Experts previously told MEE that the indictment of Barrack helped reveal how the small, oil-rich Gulf emirate was able to ingratiate itself with the Trump administration, develop a sophisticated influence operation in Washington, and secure lucrative arms deals.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.