Prosecutors had evidence last year to indict prominent Trump ally Tom Barrack

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Prosecutors wanted to move forward with the case and believed they could face charges, a source familiar with the case said. The source said the investigation was largely done well before the time when prosecutors are discouraged from advancing politically sensitive cases ahead of an election.

But two sources tell CNN that then-American attorney in Brooklyn, Richard Donoghue, had doubts about the case. It is unclear whether he outright postponed the case or whether prosecutors chose not to proceed, knowing the US attorney would not support it.

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A spokesman for the US law firm in Brooklyn declined to comment.

Donoghue did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.

Donoghue was subsequently promoted by then-Attorney General Bill Barr to chief assistant deputy attorney general at the Department of Justice.

Barr was also known within the Department for generally having reservations about foreign lobbying matters, which the Justice Department has struggled to prosecute in the past.

The case, which was charged on Tuesday, became one of the sensitive cases awaiting the arrival of Justice Department officials of the Biden administration this year.
California businessman indicted for lobbying, has counted Trump among his 'best friends'

The indictment against Barrack was a blow to Trump circles for his close connection to “Donny,” as Barrack referred to the former president in a statement last year.

With a four-decade friendship with Trump and his position as an adviser through the 2016 campaign, transition and the early days of the administration, Barrack is well aware of those around the former president and of events that have already sparked off. prosecution.

But Barrack, the wealthy head of a real estate and private equity firm, has vowed to fight the charges and can afford a robust defense, making it less likely he would turn around to become a cooperating witness against a bigger target. A person familiar with Barrack’s thinking said he has no intention of cooperating in any federal or state investigations into Trump.

Instead, prosecutors appear to be treating Barrack as their big fish, the object of what current and former justice officials acknowledge, is an aggressive case that is part of a wider Justice Department crackdown on alleged violations of foreign lobbying laws, which are rarely addressed. maintained for decades.

He was Tuesday accused of illegal lobbying abroad on behalf of the United Arab Emirates for what federal prosecutors in Brooklyn described as an attempt to influence the foreign policy positions of both Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and the subsequent incoming administration. In a seven-time indictment, Barrack was charged with acting as a UAE agent between April 2016 and April 2018. He was also charged with obstruction of justice and making false statements to federal law enforcement officers.
Trump ally Tom Barrack jailed on charges of acting as a foreign government agent

Of course, Barrack can always decide that he wants to avoid a trial and provide evidence of possible wrongdoing by others. His deep ties to the Trump world during the 2016 campaign have made him a witness in Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation and others.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan also investigated his role as chairman of Trump’s inaugural committee, which he chaired, including allegations that some people involved in the inauguration violated the influence laws, but that investigation has been dormant since last year. and no one has ever been charged in that case, according to acquaintances.

Because of his chairmanship of the inaugural commission, Barrack was impeached in an pending civil suit over the inauguration festivities by the DC Attorney General.

The relative newness of foreign lobbying cases caused some senior Justice officials in the Trump administration to take a hiatus from the Barak case, especially after prosecutors lost or got into trouble in other similar cases.

Then Mark Lesko, who became the first deputy U.S. attorney in Brooklyn to help oversee the Barrack case, was hired earlier this year as acting assistant attorney general for the National Security Branch at Justice Headquarters, the unit that assists the case. bring. , said people who had been informed about the case.

The delay of a politically sensitive issue within the Justice Department until the arrival of a new government is not without precedent. Last year, when Manhattan federal prosecutors… the prospect of seeking a search warrant? senior judicial officials have decided not to make a final decision for Rudy Giuliani’s announcements, partly because of the imminent change of management.
Earlier this year, following the installation of new leadership at the Justice Department, federal agents executed search warrants at Giuliani’s apartment and office.

CNN’s Sonia Moghe and Emma Tucker contributed to this story.

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