Who Is Tom Barrack?

onstage during the 7th Biennial UNICEF Ball on April 14, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California.
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - APRIL 14: Thomas J. Barrack Jr. (L) and guest attends the 7th Biennial UNICEF Ball on April 14, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for UNICEF USA)

This big indictment of Trump confidante Tom Barrack is not anything I had on my dance card for today or any time in the future. But as Josh Kovensky suggests in our first write up of this news Barrack had his hands in all sorts of stuff in the Trump world so legal trouble was never hard to imagine. The investigation people were expecting he’d get in trouble for was the one into the Trump inaugural, that Barrack chaired.

Barrack is the guy who put Trump together with Paul Manafort when Manafort was desperate for the gig. He was also at the center of the feeding frenzy of Gulf governments and plutocrats attracted to the fee-for-service culture surrounding the Trump campaign. Barrack was in the mix in numerous parts of the Trump-Russia story but never quite at the center of it.

It was Barrack who kept Rick Gates on the payroll after the campaign and right down to the moment of his indictment. As a Trump campaign surrogate he published an article in Fortune in 2016 calling for a “Marshall Plan” for the Middle East based on a rapprochement with Russia. “The only solution is one that works with Russia and not against them.”

But again, Russia and everything tied to it always seemed secondary to Barrack. His real thing was the money men in the Gulf. To the extent he cared about Russia it was tied to resetting US policy in the Gulf and helping people buy access to Trump.

The big thing about Barrack during the Trump campaign is that he seemed to stand out as a legitimate rich guy who was actually Trump’s friend. In other words, not another huckster like the all the others who clung around Trump. Barrack was legitimately rich and someone who had built a real real estate empire. Because of this he was supposed to play a unique role in Trump’s world – the non-toady, someone who didn’t need Trump and could thus give him good advice.

He helped Trump in other ways. It was Barrack who at first claimed to be bringing legitimate capital to Trump’s plan to turn the DC post office into a Trump hotel. After Trump got the contract, Barrack disappeared and Trump got the money from Deutschebank instead. I told that story here.

Barrack is child of Lebanese immigrants and because of that knew Arabic. That knowledge gave him an entre into the world of the burgeoning wealth of the Gulf where he worked in the 1970s. That’s where he met Manafort. They both worked in Saudi in the 1970s. In any case, those business relationships in Gulf provided the sources of capital through which Barrack built his real estate empire. They also appear to be what landed him in legal hot water.

Dear Reader,

When we asked recently what makes TPM different from other outlets, readers cited factors like honesty, curiosity, transparency, and our vibrant community. They also pointed to our ability to report on important stories and trends long before they are picked up by mainstream outlets; our ability to contextualize information within the arc of history; and our focus on the real-world consequences of the news.

Our unique approach to reporting and presenting the news, however, wouldn’t be possible without our readers’ support. That’s not just marketing speak, it’s true: our work would literally not be possible without readers deciding to become members. Not only does member support account for more than 80% of TPM’s revenue, our members have helped us build an engaged and informed community. Many of our best stories were born from reader tips and valuable member feedback.

We do what other news outlets can’t or won’t do because our members’ support gives us real independence.

If you enjoy reading TPM and value what we do, become a member today.

TPM Staff
Latest Edblog
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Associate Editor:
Investigations Desk:
Director of Audience:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front End Developer:
Senior Designer: