Former Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin testified on Thursday during the foreign lobbying trial of Tom Barrack, a former adviser to then-President Donald Trump, as the defense tried to knock down allegations that Barrack was acting as a foreign agent for the United Arab Emirates.
Mnuchin testified about a meeting with Barrack in June 2017, when Barrack disagreed with Trump’s public comments supporting a blockade preventing goods from going into Qatar.
“He came in with the idea of telling me that he thought the President had made a mistake supporting the blockade and going through his reasoning why,” Mnuchin testified. “His position was clearly in support of Qatar.”
Barrack’s defense called Mnuchin to try to undercut the prosecution’s allegation that Barrack was actually a secret back channel for the UAE, noting that the UAE was one of several countries to cut off diplomatic ties with Qatar.
Barrack is charged with allegedly acting as a foreign agent for the UAE and failing to notify the Justice Department of his role. He has pleaded not guilty. Barrack’s attorneys have argued that the businessman was never under anyone else’s direction and that he was his “own man.”
Barrack’s former assistant Matthew Grimes also was charged with acting as a foreign agent. Grimes pleaded not guilty, and his attorney has argued he was “under the control” of Barrack.
Mnuchin, who testified for about half an hour on Thursday, said he did not share confidential information with Barrack during the meeting. “I merely listened to him,” Mnuchin said. “He asked me to pass those views onto the President.”
Mnuchin also testified that Barrack “had no role working in government for me” and that he never directed Barrack to do anything on his behalf as Treasury Secretary. Barrack advised Trump as president and served as chairman of his Presidential Inaugural Committee.
Mnuchin is the latest high-profile official from the Trump administration to testify in Barrack’s trial.
Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was called as a prosecution witness earlier this month and testified that he never asked Barrack to conduct any diplomacy on behalf of the US or to pass information onto a foreign government, supporting prosecutors’ allegations that Barrack was serving as a secret back channel to the United Arab Emirates but was not officially involved in high-level discussions about Middle East policy with US national security advisers and the secretary of state.
Prosecutors rested their case on Wednesday.
Prosecutors also questioned Mnuchin about his post-administration life, and about the private equity fund he runs that receives investments from sovereign wealth funds from the UAE. At first, Mnuchin was hesitant to confirm on the witness stand.
“Your honor, we’re subject to various confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements with investors, am I required to answer?” Mnuchin said.
While Mnuchin did testify about his fund, he did not discuss specific dollar amounts. He also testified he has not spoken to Barrack in many months.