Foreign agents, like indicted Aspen man, ‘corrupting’ U.S. political system, expert warns

Politics

DENVER (KDVR) — Federal prosecutors are taking aim at a Colorado man accused of working as a foreign agent to influence the Trump Administration.

Matthew Grimes, 27, of Aspen, has been named in a seven-count federal indictment, along with another American and a citizen of the United Arab Emirates.

The U.S. Department of Justice said the crimes started in 2016 when an advisor to candidate Trump, 74-year-old Thomas Barrack, sought to advance the interests of the UAE. Barrack is accused of doing this at the direction of the UAE without disclosing that information to the U.S. Attorney General.

“If you’re going to do that, you have to register as a foreign lobbyist,” said University of Denver Center for Middle East Studies director Nader Hashemi. “In this case, there was no registration. They were doing it secretly, and that’s where they broke the law.”

Barrack, of California, served as an executive of an investment firm, according to the DOJ. The Feds say Grimes worked for Barrack, and the duo conspired with UAE agent Rashid Sultan Rashid Al Malik Alshahhi aka Rashid Al‑Malik.

The defendants “engaged in a conspiracy to illegally advance and promote the interests of the United Arab Emirates” in the U.S., according to a DOJ press release.

The crimes are alleged to have occurred between April 2016-2018. The alleged targets of this foreign influence were the Trump campaign and the Trump administration. The DOJ calls the effort a betrayal of the former president.

“I suspect the Trump administration will sort of claim that we didn’t know about it,” Hashemi said.

Barrack is accused of changing a Trump campaign speech in 2016 to praise the UAE. The Feds say he emailed the UAE an advanced copy.

After the 2016 election, investigators say the three men “repeatedly acted at the direction of UAE officials to influence the foreign policy positions of the incoming administration,” and they say Barrack told the UAE to create a “wish list” of what the UAE wanted from the U.S.

This is part of a crisis of democracy in the U.S., according to Hashemi.

“Foreign governments are directly penetrating the American political system and corrupting it,” Hashemi said.

Hashemi also said the current president must demand answers.

“If the Biden administration is really going to be serious about this particular investigation, then it’s going to have to have a very serious conversation with the United Arab Emirates over what they were doing,” Hashemi said.

Barrack and Grimes were arrested and arraigned. The foreign national named in the indictment remains on the run, according to federal prosecutors.

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