Get PolitiFact in your inbox.

Loreben Tuquero
By Loreben Tuquero May 3, 2023

No, Obama was not arrested for campaign finance violations

If Your Time is short

  • Rapper Prakazrel "Pras" Michel was convicted of charges related to an international conspiracy to influence Obama and Trump. Former President Barack Obama was not indicted.

Fugees rapper Prakazrel "Pras" Michel was convicted April 26 of charges related to an international political conspiracy that targeted former Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump. 

Some social media users speculated the scheme would lead, or had already led, to Obama’s arrest.

"Barack A.r.r.e.s.t.e.d Next-! Obama C.a.m.p.a.i.g.n took $30 Million ILLEGALLY From Commie China F.u.g.i.t.i.v.e!" the caption of an April 29 Facebook post read, attributing the information to "CNN BREAKING NEWS." 

Yes, the post really used that many periods. The video is a repost of an episode of "The Benny Show," posted April 7 by conservative commentator and podcast host Benny Johnson. Johnson’s episode was captioned with text similar to that in the reposted video, but couched as a question, "Barack Arrested Next?!"

Obama was not arrested or indicted in relation to the ongoing trial, and prosecutors have not indicated his campaign knew about the foreign influence scheme. The fugitive in the case is a Malaysian national. The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

During the episode, Johnson speculated about Obama potentially being arrested because of campaign finance violations. He floated the idea that people overlooked money funneled illegally to the Obama campaign, while people went after Trump for "bookkeeping violations," a reference to the indictment against Trump over payments to adult film actor Stormy Daniels.

Statements from the Department of Justice, court documents, and news coverage of the trial made no suggestions that it would lead to Obama’s arrest. 

Featured Fact-check

Before the trial, Justice Department lawyer John Keller said the government was not intending to call any former presidents, and Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly rejected Michel’s attempts to seek testimony from Trump and Obama, saying it would be irrelevant.

Johnson discussed actor Leonardo DiCaprio taking the witness stand April 3 in the trial of Michel, who was accused of plotting with Malaysian financier Jho Low to funnel money into Obama’s 2012 campaign. Low is now a fugitive, possibly in China, wanted by U.S. and Malaysian law enforcement for allegedly stealing $4.5 billion from a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund. 

Foreign donations to U.S. campaigns are prohibited by federal election law.

DiCaprio knew Low because the financier supported DiCaprio’s charitable foundation and helped fund "The Wolf of Wall Street," a 2013 movie starring DiCaprio. The actor told a Washington, D.C., jury April 3 that Low said he planned to donate up to $30 million to help Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign. 

Michel testified April 18 that he received $20 million from Low to help him get a photo with Obama, and said Low did not direct him to make campaign donations with the money for the photo. 

He said he used some of the money for three friends to attend $40,000-a-plate fundraisers for Obama, and claimed he did not know this was illegal.

On April 26, Michel was convicted of 10 counts related to the political conspiracy. 

Obama was not arrested or indicted in relation to this case. We rate this claim False.

Our Sources

Facebook post, April 29, 2023

The Benny Show Facebook video, April 7, 2023

PolitiFact, Donald Trump indictment: A roundup of PolitiFact’s fact-checks, stories and explainers, April 3, 2023

Department of Justice, U.S. Entertainer Convicted of Engaging in Foreign Influence Campaign, April 26, 2023

Department of Justice, U.S. Entertainer/Businessman and Malaysian National Charged with Back-Channel Lobbying Campaign to Drop 1MDB Investigation and Remove Chinese Dissident from U.S., June 11, 2021

United States of America v. Prakazrel Michel, Low Taek Jho indictment

Forbes, Fugees Rapper Pras Michel Trial: How His Charges Involve Leonardo DiCaprio, Barack Obama, Kim Kardashian And More, April 4, 2023

BBC News, The trial with A-listers, a Fugee and a fugitive, March 28, 2023

NBC News, Conspiracy trial of former Fugees member Pras Michel begins in federal court, March 30, 2023

Politico, Feds: Fugees rapper Pras Michel ran global influence-peddling scheme for cash, March 30, 2023

Politico, Fugees’ Pras Michel plans subpoenas for Obama and Trump, Jan. 17, 2023

Reuters, Leonardo DiCaprio says Malaysian financier planned to donate to Obama's 2012 campaign, April 4, 2023

NPR, Prosecutors say Pras Michel broke the law 'to get paid', March 30, 2023

Reuters, Fugees star says money from Malaysian financier was for Obama photo, not campaign donation, April 18, 2023

CBS News, Rapper Pras Michel found guilty on all 10 counts in international fraud trial, April 26, 2023

Politico, Fugees rapper found guilty in political conspiracy, April 26, 2023

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Loreben Tuquero

No, Obama was not arrested for campaign finance violations

Support independent fact-checking.
Become a member!

In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.

Sign me up