Rex Tillerson to be called in trial of Trump adviser Thomas Barrack, defense says

  • In US
  • 2022-10-02 03:01:00Z
  • By CBS News

Federal prosecutors plan to call former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as a witness in the New York trial of Thomas Barrack, a billionaire friend of former President Donald Trump accused of unlawfully lobbying on behalf of the United Arab Emirates, Barrack's attorneys said Saturday in a letter to the judge presiding over the trial.

Tillerson would be the first Cabinet official from the Trump administration to testify in the trial, which is entering its third week.

Barrack, who was an adviser to the Trump campaign and administration, as well as chair of the presidential inaugural committee, is charged with acting as an unregistered foreign agent for the UAE, obstruction of justice and making false statements to the FBI about his dealings.

Attorneys for Barrack indicated in their letter to Judge Brian Cogan that Tillerson, who is also a former CEO for Exxon Mobil, is being called earlier than the government had planned due to a scheduling conflict.

"Today, the government informed the defense that it had 'finalized the decision to call Secretary Tillerson as a witness,'" Barrack's attorneys wrote. They indicated that prosecutors intended to call Tillerson Tuesday, but asked that Cogan order him to appear Monday instead. Tuesday is scheduled to be a shorter than usual trial day due to Yom Kippur.

A spokesperson for the Eastern District of New York U.S. Attorney's Office in Brooklyn did not reply to a request for comment.

Thomas J.
Thomas J.  

Prospective jurors in the trial were questioned extensively by the judge and lawyers in the case about their opinions and knowledge of Trump and others in his orbit, including Tillerson. Cogan indicated during jury selection that Trump or members of his administration could be called as witnesses during the trial.

The case centers on allegations that Barrack traded on his friendship and access to Trump to benefit the UAE government.

During the first two weeks, jurors heard from members of law enforcement, such as a digital forensics analyst, and an expert on Gulf region monarchies. In recent days, they were read text messages and emails between Barrack and Trump's daughter, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner - Trump's son-in-law and a former White House senior adviser - as well as Paul Manafort, former chair of the 2016 Trump campaign. They were also read messages between Barrack and the two other people charged in the case, former employee Matthew Grimes and Rashid Al Malik, an Emirati citizen then living in California.

Federal prosecutors say that from 2016 to 2018 Barrack sought to advance a UAE "wish list" of foreign policy positions.

Barrack was charged in July 2021. At the time, he was executive chairman of investment firm Colony Capital. He has entered not guilty pleas to the charges. Colony Capital is now known as DigitalBridge.

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.

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