By Luc Cohen
NEW YORK (Reuters) - An effort by the United Arab Emirates to convince the United States with the help of a wealthy real estate investor to name former congressman Stephen Stockman as U.S. ambassador to that country during Donald Trump's presidency unraveled with the lawmaker's 2017 arrest on fraud charges, prosecutors said.
U.S. prosecutors made the statement in a filing late on Thursday in Brooklyn federal court ahead of next month's scheduled criminal trial of Tom Barrack, a billionaire real estate investor and fundraiser for Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. Barrack, charged with acting as a UAE agent without notifying the U.S. attorney general as required, has pleaded not guilty.
The filing, partially redacted, stated that the UAE in early 2017 asked Barrack, who had chaired Trump's inaugural committee and has described the former president as a close friend, to advocate for Stockman's appointment as American ambassador to the Middle Eastern country. An amended version of the filing made on Friday redacted Stockman's name.
Stockman, a Republican who represented Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 1990s and from 2013 to 2015, was arrested in March 2017, convicted the following year of using charitable donations for campaign and personal spending and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Trump, who took office in January 2017, commuted Stockman's sentence in the final weeks of his presidency in December 2020.
Prosecutors indicated in Thursday's filing that they want to introduce evidence at Barrack's trial about Stockman's arrest to explain why Barrack was "not able to fulfill this request, despite agreeing to do so."
The UAE's embassy in Washington, Barrack's lawyers, Stockman and his lawyers all did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Stockman was arrested on the fraud charges at a Houston airport where he was preparing to board a plane to the UAE, the Houston Chronicle newspaper reported at the time.
In a January motion to dismiss the charges against Barrack, one of the defense lawyers said that prosecutors at that time had not adequately made the claim that Barrack formally had advocated for Stockman's appointment as ambassador.
(Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York; Editing by Will Dunham)