Senate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony
Warren asks Trump transition adviser for answers on potential conflicts of interest
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called for answers Thursday from President Trump confidant and transition adviser Tom Barrack in response to reports he lobbied for a plan to construct nuclear power plants in Saudi Arabia, from which he stood to profit.
Warren cites a recent Bloomberg report that Barrack's real estate and private equity firm Colony Capital Inc. "is beginning to see some upside" as a result of his overtures during the Trump transition, including the Saudi Public Investment Fund joining Colony's investment in a $4 billion digital infrastructure investment project.
"As Chief Executive Officer of Colony, your efforts to leverage your close friendship with the President and to boost your personal financial interests are deeply troubling and raise serious questions about the bounds of ethical behavior for presidential transition teams and advisors," she writes in a letter to Barrack.
"Presidential transitions are critical periods when policy is crafted, nominees are selected, and agendas are set. Individuals who participate in this process should adhere to the highest ethical standards," the letter adds.
Warren's letter presses Barrack for answers on why he did not register as an agent of a foreign government and whether he currently provides advice to Trump on Saudi policy or U.S. government policy.
It also requests further detail from Barrack on his involvement with the Saudi sovereign wealth fund and the Trump administration's awareness of it, or lack thereof, as well as whether Barrack or any other Colony employees have influenced White House digital infrastructure policy.
The letter notes that Warren introduced the Transition Team Ethics Improvement Act in 2018, which required eligible presidential candidates to develop transition team ethics plans to address potential conflicts of interest.
The Hill has reached out to representatives for Barrack for comment.
The House Oversight and Reform Committee has also raised concerns about the involvement of Barrack - as well as former national security adviser Michael Flynn - with the Trump administration, writing in a report last month that "private parties with close ties to the President wield outsized influence over U.S. policy towards Saudi Arabia."
In response to those allegations, Blicksilver PR, which represents Barrack, told The Hill in a statement that he had been cooperating with the panel and had provided documents it requested.
"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," the firm added.