A federal judge said Tuesday that former President Donald Trump or members of his administration could be called as witnesses in the trial of Thomas Barack, Trump’s billionaire friend accused of illegally lobbying on behalf of the United Arab Emirates .
On Monday and Tuesday, Judge Brian Cogan repeatedly asked potential jurors who expressed strong views of Trump whether they could maintain justice if he was called to testify.
“In this case, maybe former President Trump, maybe someone in his administration, could be called as a witness,” Cogan told a potential juror on Tuesday.
Potential jurors in Barack’s trial all filled out forms that included questions about their perceptions of Trump and others close to him, such as former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner.
The judge’s mention of Trump doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be subpoenaed, but Cogan said several times on Monday and Tuesday that he could.
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn declined to comment, as did Barrack’s attorneys. Trump’s lawyers did not respond to requests for comment.
At the heart of the case are allegations that Barak used his friendship and contacts with Trump to benefit the UAE government.
Federal prosecutors said that from 2016 to 2018, Barack tried to advance a “wish list” of the UAE’s foreign policy positions while serving as an adviser to Trump’s campaign and administration and chairman of the president’s inaugural committee. The indictment cites communications from Rashid Al Malik, an Emirati citizen living in California at the time, who allegedly texted Barrack to suggest using the speech language of Emirati officials. Prosecutors also noted that Barak emailed Al Malik information about the television interviews he did.
Obstructing justice and making false statements to the FBI regarding his dealings as an unregistered foreign agent in the UAE, July 2021.
Barack, who was the executive chairman of investment firm Colony Capital at the time, pleaded not guilty to the charges. The company is now called DigitalBridge.An employee, Matthew Grimes, entersCharged with being an unregistered foreign agent. Al Malik has also been charged with acting as an unregistered foreign agent, and law enforcement has yet to locate him.
Prosecutors cited text messages and emails between Barrack, Grimes and Al Malik, which they said showed Barrack’s efforts to influence the government.
Barrack’s lawyers said his communications with UAE officials were related to the company. They said both Trump and the U.S. State Department were aware of Barack’s international business ties.
Opening statements in the Barack case are expected to begin on Wednesday.
The trial comes at a time when Trump and many of his allies are at the center of a maelstrom of legal scrutiny. On Tuesday, in another courtroom in the same building where jurors were being questioned, Trump’s lawyers met with a special chief appointed to oversee the administration’s handling of seizures from Trump’s Florida home. File, Mar-a-Lago.
According to Kogan, Barack’s trial is expected to last four to five weeks. As it likely draws to a close in late October, different juries are scheduled to begin meeting in court across the Brooklyn Bridge to consider criminal fraud and tax evasion charges against the Trump Organization.
The judge in the case also presided over the state criminal proceedings against Bannon, who pleaded not guilty on Sept. 8 to charges of money laundering, conspiracy and defrauding scheme.
Trump has repeatedly criticized the investigation of him and his company, denying all allegations, calling it a “witch hunt.”
Claire Heims contributed reporting for this story.