One source says questioning of real-estate developer who was chair of inaugural committee included financial campaign matters
Investigators working for special attorney Robert Mueller have interviewed one of Donald Trump’s closest friends and confidants, California real estate investor Tom Barrack, the Associated Press has learned.
Barrack was interviewed as part of the federal investigation of possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election, according to three people familiar with the issues who spoke on condition of anonymity. The topics covered in questions from Mueller’s team were not immediately clear.
One of the people who spoke said the questioning focused entirely on two officials who have been indicted by Mueller: former campaign chairperson Paul Manafort and his longtime deputy, Rick Gates. Gates agreed to plead guilty to federal conspiracy and false-statement charges in February and began cooperating with researchers. Manafort preserves his innocence on fiscal charges.
This person said Barrack was interviewed “months ago” and was asked a few questions about Gates’ is currently working on Trump’s inaugural committee, which Barrack chaired, and but there were no questions about money raised by that committee.
A second person with knowledge of the Barrack interview said the questioning was broader and did include fiscal matters about the campaign, the transition and Trump’s inauguration in January 2017. Barrack’s spokeswoman, Lisa Baker, declined comment.
Barrack has rare access and insight into Trump going back decades. He played an integral role in the 2016 campaign as a top fundraiser when many Republican were shunning the upstart nominee. Barrack subsequently directed Trump’s inauguration.
Mueller’s team has asked several other witnesses about the flow of fund related to the campaign. Researchers have for months been inquiring about the Trump campaign’s finances and compliance with federal election law, according to four people familiar with the matter.
Prosecutors’ questions have been wide-ranging, these people said, touching on the campaign’s data operations, its relationship with data-mining company Cambridge Analytica, payments to Gates and whether there were arrangements that were not are set out in filings to the Federal Election Commission, they said.
The four people very well known the investigation spoke on condition of anonymity. The examiners’ questions about the campaign’s finances have come up in interviews dating to early autumn while attorneys were preparing the first indictment against Manafort and Gates.
Barrack, a wealthy real estate investor with close ties to several middle-eastern leaders, satisfied Trump in 1988 when he negotiated the sale of the Plaza Hotel in New York to Trump. Barrack’s publicist in 2016 described the men as having since” solidified a lifelong friendship between themselves and their families “.
Barrack applied Gates last year, wrapping up operations on the Presidential Inaugural Committee, before Gates was charged by Mueller.
Barrack spoke glowingly of Trump in a CNBC interview in early 2016.” He’s one of the kindest, and actually most humble, friends that I’ve had ,” Barrack said.” I have so much respect for him because at this point in his career, wandering into the surrounding was not easy, and he’s changed the dialogue of the debate .”
Barrack also was among the featured speakers at the Republican convention. Days after Trump’s victory in November 2016, Barrack told CBS Trump was like an ultimate fighter during the campaign who employed” whatever tools necessary to convey a really disruptive message “. Barrack said America would insure” a softer, kinder” Trump in the White House.
Mueller’s researchers have interviewed dozens of witnesses. They have also procured the cooperation of former Trump national security consultant Michael Flynn and former foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos. But few witness have as much insight into the president’s lengthy business career and all facets of his campaign and administration as Barrack.
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