Five things to know about Trump confidant Tom Barrack

Tom Barrack, one of President TrumpDonald John TrumpJoint Chiefs chairman denies report that US is planning to keep 1K troops in Syria Kansas Department of Transportation calls Trump 'delusional communist' on Twitter Trump has privately voiced skepticism about driverless cars: report MORE's closest confidants, is a major player in the president's orbit who could be ensnared in a Democratic probe unveiled this week.

The investigation, led by Democrats in control of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, is digging into Trump’s desire to sell nuclear energy technology to Saudi Arabia.

An interim report released by Democrats on the panel this week said Barrack’s name came up several times as a proposed special representative to lead the Saudi nuclear effort.

As part of the probe, committee chairman, Rep. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsHouse Dems renew push for government contractor back pay Cummings demands ex-Fox News reporter share information on Stormy Daniels payments The Hill's Morning Report — Trump readies first veto after latest clash with Senate GOP MORE (D-Md.), sent letters Tuesday to Barrack and his investment firm, Colony NorthStar, requesting more information.

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A spokesman for Barrack said after the interim report was released that he “stands ready” to cooperate with the committee and noted that he never joined the Trump administration.

Here are five things to know about Barrack:

He and Trump go back decades

Barrack, a billionaire real estate investor, is one of Trump’s oldest friends. In 1985, he sold Trump a one-fifth stake in the New York department store chain Alexander’s and three years later sold him the entire Plaza Hotel for about $410 million.

Trump later lost both assets to bankruptcy, but the deals led to a lasting friendship.

In 1994, when Trump faced financial struggles, Barrack was brought in by Chase Manhattan Bank to help. Barrack crisscrossed the world looking for backers to keep the bankers at bay, reportedly getting a commitment from "several members" of the Saudi royal family. Trump ultimately went with investors from Hong Kong.

Barrack has also stepped in to help Trump’s family. According to The New York Times, by 2010, Barrack had acquired $70 million of the debt owed by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerA question of privilege: How Trump could still gut the Mueller report Ex-White House ethics chief compares Ivanka, Kushner security clearances to college admissions scandal Nadler: Half of Trump probe targets likely to comply with document requests MORE, on his troubled 666 Fifth Avenue skyscraper. Barrack reportedly was among a group of lenders who agreed to reduce Kushner’s obligations following a call from Trump.

Since Trump’s 2016 campaign, Barrack has been a frequent presence on cable news to defend the president. He was previously one of the top fundraisers during the campaign, hosting Trump’s first major fundraiser and organizing the Rebuilding America Now PAC that raised millions in support of Trump's White House bid.

He chaired Trump’s inaugural committee

Even before Democrats signaled their interest in him with the Saudi nuclear probe, Barrack was connected to a separate federal investigation involving Trump's inaugural committee.

Barrack was the chairman of the committee overseeing Trump’s inauguration in January 2017, a committee under investigation by federal prosecutors in New York. The committee’s deputy chairman was Richard Gates, who previously served in a top role on the campaign.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York is investigating how the committee raised and spent $100 million. Earlier this month, the prosecutors subpoenaed the committee for a trove of documents.

The investigation is reportedly examining whether sizable checks were written in exchange for access to the Trump administration and whether any foreigners illegally donated to the committee.

The inaugural committee’s events initially captured the attention of federal investigators because of the number of prominent foreign business leaders who attended, including many from Russia. Records seized from Trump’s former longtime lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen, who is now cooperating with a series of investigations, have also reportedly played a role in the inauguration probe.

The subpoena issued earlier this month did not name Barrack. After reports of the investigation into the committee first surfaced in December, Barrack said his lawyer contacted special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s office and was assured he was not the target of a criminal investigation. 

He’s close to others in Trump’s orbit

Barrack is the one who connected Trump with a now-familiar name: Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortBharara: 'Doesn't seem' Mueller's investigation 'ending any time soon' Dems fear Trump is looking at presidential pardons The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump condemns 'horrible' New Zealand mosque shootings MORE.

Barrack, who first met Manafort in Beirut about 40 years ago, convinced Trump to bring in the political operative as his campaign chairman during a pivotal moment of the 2016 campaign.

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According to the Times, Manafort first pitched himself to Barrack, who then pitched Manafort to Kushner and Trump’s daughter Ivanka.

In a cover letter to Trump, Barrack described Manafort as “the most experienced and lethal of managers” and “a killer,” according to the Times.

After Trump’s inauguration, Barrack’s firm hired Gates, who was also a longtime associate of Manafort, as an adviser for regulatory issues.

Both Manafort and Gates have since been caught in the special counsel investigation into Russia's election interference and whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow.

Gates, who was fired from Barrack’s firm after being indicted, pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators and is cooperating with Mueller. Manafort has been accused of violating a plea agreement by lying to investigators about contacts with a Russian associate and is awaiting sentencing after being convicted for several financial crimes.

Mueller reportedly interviewed Barrack last year with the questions focused on Manafort and Gates.

Barrack has longtime ties to the Saudis

Barrack, the son of Lebanese immigrants, made connections with the Saudis early in his career.

In 1972, while working as a lawyer, his ability to speak Arabic lead to an assignment in Saudi Arabia to work on a gas deal. There, he became a squash partner for someone he has described as “a local Saudi” who turned out to be a son of the king.

As his career proceeded, Barrack continued to cultivate relationships across the region.

According to a June article in the New York Times, Colony NorthStar had raised more than $7 billion in investments since Trump was nominated for president, 24 percent of which came from either Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates.

More recently, Barrack came under fire for defending the Saudis from criticism over the killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“So whatever happened in Saudi Arabia,” Barrack said at a conference in Abu Dhabi, “the atrocities in America are equal or worse to the atrocities in Saudi Arabia.”

He later apologized for the remark, calling Khashoggi’s slaying “atrocious” and “inexcusable.” 

"I apologize for not making this clear in my comments earlier this week," he said in a statement. "I feel strongly that the bad acts of a few should not be interpreted as the failure of an entire sovereign kingdom."

U.S. intelligence has reportedly concluded Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered Khashoggi’s death, while the Saudis have blamed it on rogue government operatives.

Democrats are interested in his business interests

Barrack’s Saudi ties and business interests are what have House Democrats’ focus at the moment.

The House Oversight committee obtained a memo sent to then-national security adviser Michael Flynn from IP3 International, a private company pushing the plan to sell the Saudis nuclear reactors, that was intended for Trump to approve.

The memo, among other things, named Barrack as special representative to oversee implementation of the nuclear plan, which was dubbed the Middle East Marshall Plan. The night IP3 sent the memo, in January 2017, National Security Council (NSC) staff reportedly raised concerns about the plan improperly benefiting Barrack.

In mid-March 2017, then-deputy national security adviser K.T. McFarland also reportedly said Trump told Barrack that he could lead the implementation of the plan, the interim report released this week by House Democrats said.

A board director at IP3 then sent NSC staff several documents in late March 2017 on the Middle East Marshall Plan, including one labeled “White Paper by Tom Barrack,” according to the report.

The committee also highlighted a November 2017 ProPublica report that said Barrack thought about buying a piece of Westinghouse Electric, the then-bankrupt nuclear reactor manufacturer that stands to be among the most benefited should the United States sell nuclear technology to the Saudis.

The committee also cited a recent ProPublica report that Colony NorthStar developed a plan in February 2017 to profit off its connections to the administration and foreign dignitaries.

Colony NorthStar has told ProPublica the memo in its February report "was simply an outline of a proposed potential business plan which was never acted upon or implemented."

A spokesman for Barrack said after the interim Democratic report was released this week that the longtime Trump associate was involved in the region to pursue "better aligned Middle East and U.S. objectives."

“Mr. Barrack’s engagement in investment and business development throughout the Middle East for the purpose of better aligned Middle East and U.S. objectives are well known, as are his more than four decades of respected relationships throughout the region,” he said in a statement.