02:20 - Source: CNN
Trump ally charged with acting as agent of foreign nation
CNN  — 

Jury selection began Monday in the foreign lobbying trial of Tom Barrack, a former adviser to then-President Donald Trump and chairman of his Presidential Inaugural Committee.

Judge Brian Cogan mentioned Trump’s name as he questioned a pool of potential jurors to find qualified individuals to hear evidence, suggesting the former President as a possible witness. But it’s unclear if Trump would actually be called to the stand or if the question is meant to gauge juror bias.

During jury selection, a judge generally reads a list of names of individuals who could be mentioned during a trial who could be called as witnesses to try to root out any bias on behalf of the potential juror.

Barrack and his former assistant Matthew Grimes have been charged with acting as a secret backchannel for the United Arab Emirates to influence the Trump administration’s foreign policy in a way to benefit the Gulf nation. They both have pleaded not guilty to charges of acting as a foreign agent for the UAE and deny having any agreement to aid the Emirates.

Questionnaires were sent to prospective jurors over the summer, and a number of them expressed a dislike of Trump.

The potential conflict was raised in August court filings, as Barrack’s lawyers and prosecutors went back and forth over whether to strike potential jurors for bias after several said in response to the questionnaire that Trump was their “least admired” person.

Prosecutors wrote in one court filing: “The defendants claim that striking jurors who have expressed some dislike of former President Trump or his administration is appropriate because the former President and other members of the Trump Administration ‘cannot be ruled out’ as potential witnesses. Although the defendants have already disclosed their witness lists, neither defendant identified the former President or any former member of the Trump Administration as a potential witness.”

Prosecutors also noted the government “may call one or more former Trump Administration officials, and thus would theoretically risk some prejudice to their witnesses from jurors who expressed negative views of the Trump Administration.” The filing did not identify any former White House officials by name.

Barrack’s attorneys countered in a court filing that they can’t make any final call on who they will call as witnesses until the government presents its case.

“Thus, putting aside which party noticed these witnesses, it is disingenuous for the Government to suggest that it is ‘skeptical of the defendant’s claim’ that key figures in the Trump Administration, or even former President Trump himself, are potential witnesses in this case,” they wrote.

Jury selection will continue on Tuesday.