The Barrack Trial: Trump Chimes In & A Young Pawn is Sacrificed
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Late Sunday, the night before Trump crony Tom Barrack, who is accused of acting as a foreign agent for the UAE between 2016 and 2018, was set to take the stand in his own trial, Trump himself sounded off about it on Truth Social:
It was the first time Trump had commented on the trial since it began six weeks ago.
I had been wondering when we’d hear from the former president, especially given that, at this point, two Trump cabinet secretaries have testified: former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and former Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin. One could hardly imagine that Trump wanted to be left out of that party. And sure enough, he wasn’t. But it isn’t clear that what he said was welcomed by the chief defendant.
Today, Barrack himself finally took the stand at the Eastern District of New York Courthouse in Brooklyn and gave a masterclass in salesmanship that, frankly, was unsurprising from a self-made billionaire whose trademark is his likeability. In case you needed extra proof of how well-liked he is: I gathered upon inquiry that the leggy blonde sitting in the back of the courtroom was not his girlfriend, but one of his ex-wives! And while you mull on that, know that last week, there was a different leggy blonde—also an ex-wife! Kudos to the guy. Even the very rich are not obliged to like their ex-spouses, so you’ve got to take something from the fact that both women were there (albeit separately).
Barrack was also savvy enough to praise Joe Biden and declare that his long friendship with Trump had been “disastrous” for him and his business and was also the reason he was sitting in court today. That will play well for a Brooklyn jury.
Two other things of note:
First, those of you who remember my coverage of the Ghislaine Maxwell trial will remember that a number of other journalists and I were concerned by the extremely youthful appearance of the four government prosecutors for the Southern District. They looked liked they’d barely graduated high school.
Well, in this Brooklyn courtroom, we’ve got the opposite. There are four men on the legal team (three of them hulking, towering examples of their gender), and the lead prosecutor, Samuel Nitze, who is in his late forties, uses his height and great physicality to great effect both upon cross-examination and when he wants to object, which he does a lot. On Friday, he kept standing up to object—perhaps in case the judge hadn’t noticed him. (The judge has cracked one or two jokes showing that yes, he has noticed him.) When Nitze interrogates a witness, rather than standing behind the lectern, he stands beside it (squarely blocking my view, by the way), and I can’t work out if this has impressed the jury—or terrified them. They certainly seem entertained by the electricity of his performance, but it’s not clear if their laughter is with him or at him. I looked up his bio and discovered he’d been a journalist before he changed tack and went to law school. This was a sobering thought because I cannot think of anyone who has less of a bedside manner, at least in this court room, but he’s the center of this trial, and it is presumably his cross examination of Tom Barrack that will decide how this trial goes.
Secondly, however the trial goes, there’s one person who tugs at my heartstrings: Barrack’s former aide Matthew Grimes, all of 29, who is accused of conspiring with his boss. From everything I’ve seen and read so far, this means Grimes sent a lot of text messages to an Emirati businessman, saying things like “told Tom,” “checked with Tom,” “passed on to Tom,” and so on. The guy has a cherubic face and looks younger than his age. His parents sit behind him each day. They look like a nice couple. In other circumstances, you’d think they’d come to cheer him on in college debate club.
Barrack met Grimes at his own son’s eighth grade graduation party, where a then-teenage Grimes was the DJ, and Barrack has mentored him ever since. You can tell from all the testimony that Grimes worked his ass off for Barrack, doing all sorts of thankless tasks (including photographing his boss’s luggage to make sure it all arrived safely) apparently uncomplainingly. Yet here he sits with his life potentially ruined chiefly because he and an Emirati who has been described as a “dreamer” wrote some overly emotional school-boyish texts to one another about their plans for world domination.
Barrack himself told the jury, “One of the worst feelings in my life is him sitting in this courtroom today. It’s ridiculous.”
Hey ho, so the world goes. But I do have to wonder if our tax dollars have been spent wisely in this case. If either of these two goes to jail, I will always feel that those cells could have had far worthier occupants. And one of them might possibly be the person who sounded off on Truth Social about it all…