Ex-Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin Takes Stand at Tom Barrack’s Foreign-Agent Trial

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Ex-Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin Takes Stand at Tom Barrack’s Foreign-Agent Trial
Credit: © Reuters.

(Bloomberg) -- Former US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin took the stand in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, to testify in the trial of Colony Capital (NYSE: DBRG ) LLC founder Tom Barrack.

Mnuchin arrived at the courthouse Thursday during a break in testimony. Earlier in the day, the judge ruled that he wouldn’t have to answer questions about “mind-boggling” sums invested in his firm.

The former cabinet official is appearing as a defense witness for Barrack, who’s accused of trying to influence the campaign and administration of his longtime friend, former President Donald Trump, as an unregistered agent of the United Arab Emirates. 

Mnuchin began his testimony by briefly recounting his tenure as Trump’s treasury secretary as well as his 17 years at Goldman Sachs Group Inc (NYSE: GS ). He then said Barrack, whom he knew both socially and professionally for about 15 years, did offer him advice occasionally on the Middle East. But he said it was a one-way street.

“I would never share information with him or anybody else that I thought was confidential information,” Mnuchin said. He said Barrack was one of perhaps 100 business people to whom he spoke to while he was in office.

US District Judge Brian Cogan on Thursday barred prosecutors from asking Mnuchin how much UAE money was invested with him. 

“What I don’t want is numbers paraded before the jury,” the judge said. “The numbers are mind-boggling.”

Last September, Mnuchin’s private equity fund raised $2.5 billion, largely from Middle East sovereign wealth funds, including the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia. It’s not clear how much of the money came from UAE funds.

The government claims Barrack was motivated to act for the UAE by his own desire for sovereign wealth fund money. UAE funds invested $374 million in Colony in 2017 and 2018. Colony’s former private equity head testified Tuesday that the firm had a spreadsheet category for such investments entitled “Barrack magic.”

Barrack denies there was any connection between the money Colony received from UAE funds and informal advice he gave the Trump administration.

Prosecutors on Wednesday raised the possibility of “bias” with Mnuchin’s testimony in “a case involving a person being accused of acting as an unlawful agent of the UAE and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

Cogan agreed Thursday there was some concern as the “UAE is a very important client” for Mnuchin. The judge said the Gulf state would likely prefer not to see someone convicted for trying to surreptitiously influence US policy on its behalf. 

He said prosecutors could ask the former treasury secretary about his business dealings with the UAE but not about specific amounts.

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