(Bloomberg) -- U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren is demanding Donald Trump ally Tom Barrack explain how he won business with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund after working closely with the president and his administration.
In a letter to Barrack, the lawmaker highlighted deals the financier’s Colony Capital Inc. arranged after he met with Saudi officials including Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman while serving as head of Trump’s inaugural committee and as an adviser to the presidential transition team. The transactions were the subject of a recent Bloomberg article.
“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 advisers,” Warren wrote in the letter dated Aug. 14.
Bloomberg reported on Aug. 1 that a vehicle co-managed by Colony focusing on digital infrastructure investments had received backing from the kingdom’s Public Investment Fund, and that Barrack’s firm was in talks regarding a media venture that would make PIF a co-investor in a Hollywood studio. Such a stake would fulfill the Saudis’ longtime goal of getting a foothold in the entertainment business.
A spokesman for Barrack said at the time that it’s well known he has engaged in “investment and business development throughout the Middle East for the purpose of better aligned Middle East and U.S. objectives.” The spokesman added: “Mr. Barrack’s consistent attempts to bridge the divide of tolerance and understanding between these two great cultures is etched in the annals of time. This is not political, it is essential.”
Warren, a contender for the Democratic nomination to challenge Trump in next year’s election, has been pushing for legislation to enhance ethics requirements for presidential transition teams. Her letter asks Barrack to respond by Aug. 23 with a description of his Los Angeles-based firm’s involvement with the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, including a timeline of their talks and information on whether administration officials were aware of them.
Among other questions, she asked Barrack:
- why he didn’t register as an agent of a foreign government;
- whether he is advising the president on policies including a potential nuclear cooperation agreement with the Saudi government;
- whether Barrack or Colony employees are in talks with the president or his administration over digital infrastructure; and
- whether Barrack has used any non-public information gleaned from administration sources for business purposes.
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