Trump ally Barrack to testify in own defense at 'foreign agent' trial

FILE PHOTO - Jury selection of Trump adviser Thomas J. Barrack Jr. in New York

By Luc Cohen

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Tom Barrack, a onetime fundraiser for former U.S. President Donald Trump, is expected to take the witness stand in his own defense next week in his trial on charges of being an illegal foreign agent for the United Arab Emirates.

Barrack's lawyer Randall Jackson said in open court on Friday that Barrack would the stand Friday afternoon. Later, prosecutor Sam Nitze said he expected to take substantial time to cross-examine the current witness, former Barrack lawyer Brady Cassis, meaning Barrack would not take the stand Friday.

For defendants, testifying is potentially risky because it opens them up to probing cross-examination by prosecutors.

Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn said Barrack, 75, used his influence with Trump's election campaign and administration to push the UAE's interests without notifying the U.S. attorney general, as required by law.

They rested their case earlier this week after showing jurors hundreds of emails and text messages between Barrack, his former assistant Matthew Grimes, and an Emirati businessman named Rashid Al Malik, who prosecutors described as an intermediary between them and Emirati officials.

Those messages showed Emirati officials provided feedback to Barrack on what he should say in television interviews and an op-ed about U.S. policy toward the Middle East in 2016 and 2017, and gave input about what Trump should say about energy policy in a 2016 campaign speech.

Barrack, 75, has pleaded not guilty, as has his co-defendant Grimes. Al Malik is at large.

Barrack's lawyers argued his interactions with Emirati officials were part of his job running Colony Capital, a private equity firm now known as DigitalBridge Group Inc. Even in instances where his interests and goals aligned with the UAE's, he was acting on his own volition, they said.

The trial has featured testimony from former U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson - who testified for the prosecution that he was unaware of Barrack's role in foreign policy - and former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who testified on Thursday for the defense that Barrack pushed him to convince Trump to support Qatar in a blockade brought by regional rivals including the UAE.

(Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York; Editing by Chris Reese and Grant McCool)