Trump aides reportedly let United Arab Emirates officials edit "America First" energy speech

Elijah Cummings' committee suggests Trump had major energy speech approved by UAE pals of supporter Tom Barrack

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published July 30, 2019 2:45PM (EDT)

Tom Barrack; Donald Trump (Getty/Salon)
Tom Barrack; Donald Trump (Getty/Salon)

Top Trump advisers sent officials in the Middle East advance copies of then-candidate Trump’s “America First” energy speech and allowed senior United Arab Emirates officials to edit the text, according to a report by the House Oversight Committee. That committee is chaired by Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., a target of the president's recent racist outbursts on Twitter.

Tom Barrack, a longtime Trump friend who advised him on the campaign and later came under investigation due to his role as the head of Trump’s inaugural committee, sent an advance copy of Trump’s first big energy speech to a business associate in the UAE, who then shared it with senior government officials in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, ABC News reports. Barrack, a billionaire investor with extensive ties in the Middle East, then sent suggested edits from UAE officials to then-campaign chief Paul Manafort, who promised to add the changes to Trump’s speech.

“This is the most likely final version of the speech. It has the language you want,” Manafort wrote in an email to Barrack on the day of the speech, according to ABC News. 

Trump used the speech to vow that his energy plan would put “America first.” 

“Under my presidency, we will accomplish complete American energy independence,” he told the crowd in North Dakota. “Imagine a world in which our foes, and the oil cartels, can no longer use energy as a weapon.”

The New York Times reported on Sunday that an aide to Barrack confirmed the report but added that little of the text the UAE wanted made it into the speech.

“The Trump Administration has virtually obliterated the lines normally separating government policy making from corporate and foreign interests,” said the report issued by the House Oversight Committee.

The report also details how Barrack used his connections to Trump to push for a deal to sell sensitive nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia, even as he pursued a position in Trump’s administration. 

According to the report, Barrack convinced Trump officials to back the plan while at the same time seeking funding from Saudi Arabia and the UAE to buy the only American manufacturer of large-scale nuclear reactors.

The Trump administration later quietly approved the sale of secret nuclear technology to the Saudis, Reuters has reported, although Barrack never got a job in the administration after he was blocked by Jared Kushner, according to The Times, and failed to get the Saudi funding.

These reported dealings with Middle Eastern officials has drawn scrutiny from federal investigators, who have interviewed Barrack. The longtime Trump friend headed up Trump’s inaugural fund, which raised a record-setting $107 million. The inaugural fund is currently under investigation by federal prosecutors, who are examining whether any of the money illegally came from foreign donors and whether donations were used to gain access to the president’s inner circle. 

Cummings called on Trump to stop stonewalling the committee’s investigation in light of the new findings and turn over the documents the panel has long sought.

"The American people deserve to know the facts about whether the White House is willing to place the potential profits of the President's personal friends, above the national security of the American people and the universal objective of preventing the spread of nuclear weapons," Cummings said in a statement.

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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