When candidate Donald Trump prepared to give a major energy speech during the 2016 campaign, one of his closest advisers provided a pre-speech review to senior United Arab Emirates officials, an unorthodox move that caught the attention of federal investigators, according to emails and text messages uncovered by a House Oversight Committee investigation.
“The Trump Administration has virtually obliterated the lines normally separating government policy making from corporate and foreign interests,” according to a report overseen by House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, who commissioned the investigation into back channel business dealings between certain Trump aides and Middle Eastern countries.
Two weeks before Trump was scheduled to deliver the energy policy speech, Thomas Barrack, a California investment tycoon with extensive contacts in the Middle East and who later helped oversee Trump’s inauguration, provided a former business associate inside the United Arab Emirates with an advance copy of the candidate’s planned remarks. The associate then told Barrack he shared them with UAE and Saudi government officials, after which Barrack arranged for language requested by the UAE officials to be added to the speech with the help of Trump’s campaign manager at the time, Paul Manafort.
“This is the most likely final version of the speech. It has the language you want,” Manafort confirmed in an email to Barrack on the day of the speech, according to the report. Manafort has since gone to prison for financial crimes unrelated to his campaign work.
House investigators note in their report that none of the documents they gathered indicate “whether Trump was aware that drafts of his speech were circulated to foreign officials in the Middle East or that feedback had been provided through Mr. Barrack and Mr. Manafort.”
The back-channel exchange caught the attention not only of House investigators but also of federal prosecutors, according to a report late Sunday in The New York Times, which first reported on the dealings.
ABC News has obtained copies of more detailed emails and texts from House investigators, who gathered more than 60,000 documents showing what they say are the intermingling of private interests and public policy decision by Trump aides both before and after he took office. The resulting investigative report, made public Monday, presents events surrounding the 2016 energy speech as a prime example of how Trump’s close aides were granting their foreign business contacts access to campaign policy decisions.
Trump traveled to North Dakota in May of 2016, having just clinched the Republican nomination for president. He intended to give a policy speech that would solidify his position on oil, gas and coal – an energy speech that would make clear he would prioritize American energy jobs over grand multi-national environmental pacts like the Paris climate agreement.
Trump called his approach an “America First” energy plan that would “make America wealthy again.”
“Under my presidency, we will accomplish complete American energy independence,” he told the crowd. “Imagine a world in which our foes, and the oil cartels, can no longer use energy as a weapon.”
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