There was no shortage of questions surrounding Donald Trump's inaugural committee, which faced scrutiny from federal prosecutors two years into the Republican's presidency. Among the areas of concern were allegations about how the committee spent the considerable funds it raised in 2017.
As questions grew louder, it became easy to imagine Thomas Barrack, Trump's longtime friend and the chair of the presidential inaugural committee, facing real legal trouble.
As it turns out, Tom Barrack has, in fact, been arrested, but not because of the inaugural committee he oversaw. Rather, according to a Justice Department indictment, Trump's friend unlawfully "advanced the interests" of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) through the Republican campaign and administration. NBC News reported this afternoon:
In a seven-count indictment, unsealed in a New York federal court, Barrack, 74, and two others are accused of "acting and conspiring to act as agents" of the United Arab Emirates between April 2016 and April 2018. Barrack was also charged with obstruction of justice and making multiple false statements to federal law enforcement agents.
The Justice Department's full statement about the indictment is online here. A spokesperson for Barrack issued a statement to the press this afternoon saying his client will plead not guilty.
While we take stock of the alleged criminal details, it's hard not to notice the "culture of lawlessness" surrounding the former president keeps getting worse.
- Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was charged, convicted, and sentenced to prison.
- Trump's former campaign vice chairman, Rick Gates, was charged, convicted, and sentenced to prison.
- Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, was charged, convicted, and sentenced to prison.
- Trump's former adviser and former campaign aide, Roger Stone, was charged, convicted, and sentenced to prison.
- Trump's former White House national security advisor, Michael Flynn, was charged and convicted.
- Trump's former campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, was charged, convicted, and sentenced to prison.
- Trump's former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, was charged with wire fraud and money laundering.
- The CFO of Trump's business, Allen Weisselberg, was recently charged with tax fraud.
- And today, the former chair of Trump's inaugural committee was arrested, too. (Elliot Broidy was the vice chair of Trump's inaugural committee, and he found himself at the center of multiple controversies, and pled guilty last fall to federal charges related to illegal lobbying.)
To be sure, some of these men were ultimately pardoned by the former president, who doled out pardons as party favors before exiting the White House, but this doesn't change the "remarkable universe of criminality" surrounding Trump.
Circling back to our earlier coverage, the number of criminals is important, but so too is the degree to which this dynamic conflicts with the story Trump was eager to tell about himself. For years, the Republican presented himself as being aggressively "tough on crime," which he frequently tried to incorporate into his political message. In 2019, for example, while making the case for a border wall, the then-president declared, "The Democrats, which I've been saying all along, they don't give a damn about crime. They don't care about crime.... But I care about crime."
Trump cared so much about crime that he surrounded himself with criminals.