Barrack’s acquittal is another blow to the DOJ’s crackdown on foreign influence

With Daniel Lipman

FARA FRIDAY: Jurors today cleared the real estate investor and longtime friend of Trump Tom Barracks to illegally act as a foreign agent of the UAE, inflicting another stinging setback on the Justice Department in its efforts to crack down on illicit foreign influence campaigns that some foreign lobbying experts say could have an impact on how the department is using a relatively new approach to pursue such efforts.

– “There is no doubt that this is a huge defeat for the Department of Justice,” said Rob Kelnerlawyer to Covington and Burling who advises clients on FARA. Paired with the recent dismissal by a judge of a DOJ attempt to force another high-profile ally of the former president donald trump register as a foreign agent, Barrack’s acquittal “will force [DOJ] to go back to the drawing board and be considerably more selective about what business they choose to pursue,” Kelner predicted.

– Just three days into deliberations, the jury acquitted Barrack of charges of acting as an unregistered foreign agent of the UAE, as well as lying to investigators and obstructing their investigation. The jury also cleared Barrack’s former assistant Matthew Grimes charges of acting as an agent of the United Arab Emirates, following a nearly seven-week trial that saw testimony from two former members of Trump’s cabinet as well as Barrack himself.

– FARA experts who followed the case were not surprised by the verdict, noting that the case was part of a relatively new legal strategy that prosecutors have relied on in recent years and that the case from Barrack in particular relied heavily on circumstantial evidence in the form of reams of text messages and emails.

– As regular readers will recall, Barrack and Grimes were not charged with violating FARA, but rather the law known as Section 951, which has historically been used to prosecute espionage cases .

– The DOJ has increased its use of the law to bring cases outside of this context as part of its strengthening of overseas lobbying enforcement, and while pursuing 951 cases does not require intent deliberately breaking the law as a FARA criminal charge does, both statutes are considered vague and outdated by modern influence campaigns, leading to their lack of use by prosecutors until recently. .

– “These are flawed laws, as I think juries often recognize, and I don’t think it will be viable for the government to continue its campaign against foreign influence using these laws in the same way he has done for the past few years,” Kelner said.

Tom Spulaklawyer to King and Spalding who advises clients on FARA, agreed, noting that in general “it’s going to be difficult to prove an agency relationship in many situations.” This task becomes more difficult in political cases compared to a case where a government employee is tasked with stealing documents from a federal agency – imagery similar to that invoked by Barrack’s lawyers.

– “Today’s verdict will not diminish the Department’s commitment in future cases to fairly and even-handedly enforce laws designed to deter covert foreign influence on American policy,” a spokesperson said. of the DOJ.

— But the government might be forced to revise its approach in doing so. “I think the department viewed 951 as sort of an extension of FARA and a catch-all to bring about or try to continue foreign influence efforts,” matt sandersonlawyer to Caplin and Drysdale, said P.I. “I think what we learned today is that the scope of 951 may not be very different, or extend beyond FARA, so it might not not be as valuable a prosecution or enforcement tool as they originally thought.”

– He added that it is also possible that the FARA unit could focus – at least temporarily – on fruits within reach. This could mean more cases in which, unlike Barrack, an accused does not have long-standing ties to the region they are accused of working for, or in which prosecutors can point to the direct exchange of money by exchange of explicit instructions from a foreign government.

David Laufmanlawyer to Wiggin and Dana who previously oversaw FARA enforcement for the DOJ, cautioned against drawing sweeping conclusions about the future of FARA enforcement based on the DOJ’s recent legal setbacks.

– “I doubt that either of these results … will result in some sort of thematic shift in the priority or direction of enforcement,” he said, arguing that each case will be considered on its own merits. own merits, but that it is likely to go forward overseas lobbying cases will face even greater scrutiny internally before charges are brought.

Happy Friday and welcome to PI. Four days until election day. Inhale through your nose, exhale through your mouth. Then send the K Street gossip: [email protected]. And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter: @caitlinoprysko.

CONTINUATION OF FARA FRIDAY: One of several foreign influence bills introduced this fall could be slipped into annual defense policy legislation when lawmakers meet again after the election to finish the NDAA.

– The PAID OFF Act, which would prevent lobbyists representing clients in countries considered “foreign adversaries” from availing themselves of FARA’s trade and LDA exemptions, was included in the Director’s Amendment to the NDAA that the Senate will pass later this month.

– A source familiar with the negotiations told PI there had been pressure to include Sens’s measure. John Corny (R-Texas), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Sheldon White House (DR.I.), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) and Deb Fisher (R-Neb.) in the final version of the bill for the conference, ensuring that the FARA measure would reach the president Joe Bidenoffice.

— The effort hit a speed bump in the House, where the president of the judiciary Jerry Nadler (DN.Y.) holds the measure. The two-party leaders of the House and Senate Foreign Relations Committees, as well as the Senate Judiciary Committee, all approved the wording, the source said, as did the senior Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).

– That leaves Nadler, the committee chairman, as the only recalcitrant to greenlight the FARA bill. Nadler’s office did not respond to requests for comment on his concerns about the measure.

MUSK’S TWITTER LAYOUTS INCLUDE PUBLIC POLICY TEAM:Elon Musk started shooting hundreds of Twitter employees on Friday, four days before the midterm elections, including key members of teams working on the US election and moderating content on the high profile social media platform,” POLITICSit is Samuel Stolton, Laura Kayali, Mark Scott, Rebecca Kern and Mohar Chatterjee report.

– “Half of Twitter’s public policy team has been removed”, including Michele Austin, the platform’s former director of public policy and elections in the United States and Canada. “Austin tweeted that she was responsible for helping to lead America’s 2022 Midterm Policy on the platform. “I was responsible for social impact work in both countries,” she said. tweeted in a thread Friday.”

— “Since buying Twitter last week, the tech billionaire has insisted that the company’s content moderation and misinformation policies remain in place, and has sought to appease advertisers who were nervous about about its promises to restore more freewheeling content to its news feed.”

— “Friday’s layoffs, however, appear to be fueling concerns among users and advertisers that Twitter is undermining its ability to keep tabs on who and what is appearing on its platform. And the across-the-board cuts come just when the company’s moderation systems should be mid-stream tested.

CORPORATE MONEY RESUMES THE FLOW TO ELECTION OPPONENTS: “After suspending donations to Republicans who voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election, a collection of PACs, including those from Amazon and caterpillarrestarted contributions ahead of midterm elections in which the GOP is favored to gain control of the House,” Roll Call’s Kate Ackley reports.

– “Most of the business and industry political action committees that announced breaks after the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol had already resumed giving to all lawmakers, including the 147 lawmakers who will opposed certification of two states’ electoral votes after the attack, Federal Election Commission filings show.

– “In total, business and trade group PACs donated more than $2.2 million to these 147 members in September and early October alone, according to a new analysis of FEC records by, shared first with CQ Roll Call. Since the Jan. 6 attack, corporate and industry PAC donations to these lawmakers have totaled more than $30 million, the group said.

– “The initial PAC freeze after Jan. 6, combined with a reduced number of in-person events due to the pandemic, resulted in lower donations from these vaults earlier in the election cycle. But by this fall, the fundraising scene was almost back to normal.

– The Independent Community Bankers of America hiring Kari Mitchum as Vice President of Payments Policy. She was previously product strategist at Federal Naval Credit Union.

Andy Morimoto is now Director of Climate Policy at Edelman World Council. He was until very recently director of research at the Paulson Institute.

Elsa Alvarado joined Bryson Gillette as Director of Public Affairs. She is currently Director of Strategic Communications in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs at the Pentagon.


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