Aides to now-President Donald Trump let senior United Arab Emirates officials look at and edit a 2016 campaign trail speech in which he laid out his “America First” energy policy, ABC News reported on Monday.
According to ABC News, House Oversight Committee officials found during an investigation that Thomas Barrack, a “California investment tycoon with extensive contacts in the Middle East and who later helped oversee Trump’s inauguration,” provided one of his former business associates with drafts of the speech. Said associate then told Barrack he had shown the speech to senior UAE and Saudi Arabian officials, and that the ones from the UAE wanted some changes. Barrack then arranged for the edits to be made with the help of Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort (who was recently sentenced to 7.5 years in prison tax and banking fraud charges related to his prior work for a Ukrainian despot and is facing similar charges in New York).
In the speech, Trump asserted that he would pursue a policy intended to “accomplish complete American energy independence” focused on coal, gas, and oil extraction, as well as attacked international efforts to fight climate change such as the Paris Agreement.
Trump added that his administration would “work with our Gulf allies to develop a positive energy relationship as part of our anti-terrorism strategy,” which according to ABC News is one of the changes requested by the UAE officials. Text messages between Barrack and the associate, alleged UAE intelligence asset Rashid al-Malik, show that the UAE wanted even more substantial changes such as inserting references to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and UAE Crown Prince Abudhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Manafort wrote in an email to Barrack that “This is the most likely final version of the speech. It has the language you want.” ABC News wrote:
ABC News has obtained copies of more detailed emails and texts from House investigators, who gathered more than 60,000 documents showing what they say are the intermingling of private interests and public policy decision by Trump aides both before and after he took office. The resulting investigative report, made public Monday, presents events surrounding the 2016 energy speech as a prime example of how Trump’s close aides were granting their foreign business contacts access to campaign policy decisions.
“The Trump Administration has virtually obliterated the lines normally separating government policy making from corporate and foreign interests,” House Oversight chair Representative Elijah Cummings told the news network.
The matter has attracted the attention of federal prosecutors, who are investigating whether Barrack violated laws requiring those lobbying on behalf of foreign governments disclose those ties to the Justice Department, according to a Sunday report in the New York Times. According to sources who spoke with the paper, Manafort “was awash in debt and had no income” and hoped that Barrack could “use his deep ties to the oil-rich nations to drum up business for them both,” with Barrack referring to Manafort in another email to a UAE ambassador as someone who was “totally programmed” on the UAE-Saudi alliance.
Barrack’s name has also come up in a separate House Oversight report accusing the Trump administration of trying to export nuclear secrets to Saudi Arabia while skirting legally mandatory congressional oversight, with Barrack allegedly playing a key role in promoting the plan and even being appointed a special adviser for its implementation. In that report, Democrats wrote that Barrack had raised over a billion dollars for his company, Colony Capital, from sources in Saudi Arabia and the UAE—some $474 million directly from the nations’ sovereign wealth funds, according to the Times.