Earlier last week, the Justice Department launched a bombshell allegation against one of the key figures in former President Donald Trump’s inner circle. According to the Justice Department, billionaire developer Steve Wynn — a man who has known Trump for years and served as the Republican National Committee’s finance chairman during Trump’s first year in office — also worked as a foreign agent for the account. of the Chinese government. As such, the Justice Department is seeking to register Wynn as a foreign agent.
According to a Justice Department lawsuit, Wynn used his perch to liaise with other foreign agents working on behalf of China.
According to a lawsuit filed by the Justice Department, Wynn used his perch to liaise with other foreign agents working on China’s behalf to try to convince Trump to target an unnamed Chinese dissident, including revoking his visa. dissenter and placing it on the American number. – steal the list. Wynn’s main contact in the operation was Trump fundraiser Elliott Broidy, who pleaded guilty in 2020 to working as an unregistered agent for China – and who at one point served under Wynn in as Vice President of Finance of the RNC. (Wynn resigned as RNC finance chairman in 2018 following complaints of sexual misconduct.)
The lawsuit goes into great detail, highlighting, for example, several text messages between Broidy and Wynn’s wife, which were allegedly sent on her husband’s behalf. The fate of the anonymous dissident was a “matter of utmost importance” to Chinese President Xi Jinping, Broidy says in the texts. Wynn also spoke directly with then-Vice Minister Sun Lijun on several occasions about the matter, with the former Chinese official directly asking Wynn for help. Broidy then texted that Sun was “extremely delighted and said President Xi Jinping appreciates [Wynn’s] assistance.”
According to the lawsuit, Beijing had every reason to be pleased with Wynn’s efforts. Throughout 2017, Wynn repeatedly pushed Trump to pressure the anonymous dissident, including in “what appeared to be unscheduled meetings” with Trump. At one point, the Justice Department said Wynn called Trump from a yacht off the coast of Italy to discuss the matter. Wynn even appealed to Trump’s chief of staff and senior National Security Council officials. As the Justice Department claims, Wynn spent months trying to convince Trump – during which time he never bothered to register any of his work with the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), the primary US method of labor disclosure for foreign regimes.
For reasons that remain unclear, Wynn’s alleged illicit lobbying pressure ultimately proved unsuccessful, and in late 2017 he asked his contact in the Chinese government to “stop contacting him.” But Wynn’s motives certainly appear much less mysterious. As the Justice Department describes in the lawsuit, the government of the Chinese city of Macau, where Wynn operates several casinos, decided in 2016 to restrict the number of tables and machines available to Wynn, threatening its source of income. . A few months later, Wynn reportedly began responding to Beijing’s auctions – and began directly discussing the fate of its casinos in several calls with Sun.
Through his attorneys, Wynn has denied allegations that he served as a secret foreign agent. However, the fact that the Department of Justice filed a formal complaint represents a significant step forward in US efforts to uncover illicit lobbying campaigns abroad. Even with the recent increase in attention to foreign lobbying in the United States, the lawsuit against Wynn is the first FARA-related civil lawsuit in more than three decades.
It’s not hard to see why the Department of Justice resorted to such a drastic measure.
And it’s not hard to see why the Justice Department resorted to such a drastic measure. Since 2018, the department says it has repeatedly told Wynn it must register its lobbying efforts — and each time, according to the agency, Wynn refused.
On the one hand, the allegations are shocking. After all, the US government is formally accusing a longtime Trump compatriot, and the man overseeing the finances of the Republican National Committee, of secretly working on behalf of a global superpower that is often at odds with US interests. . You would think that such an allegation would trigger a big count among Republican Party leaders.
But instead, these allegations were mostly met with a collective shrug. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. Wynn, after all, isn’t the only member of Trump’s orbit accused of trying to bend the president to another country’s will. Alongside Broidy, Trump’s campaign chairman (Paul Manafort) and campaign vice chairman (Rick Gates) were both convicted of unlawful lobbying for a foreign government. The same goes for Mike Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, who admitted to secretly working as a foreign agent for Turkey, in addition to taking tens of thousands of dollars from the Kremlin. And Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, remains under federal investigation for also allegedly working as a foreign agent, after being linked to Turkey’s lobbying efforts in Venezuela with pro-Russian forces in Ukraine. (Giuliani denied the allegations.)
That’s not the only big news either. this the week regarding illicit foreign lobbyists whispering in Trump’s ear. On Tuesday, federal prosecutors revealed more details about alleged ties between the United Arab Emirates and Tom Barrack, Trump’s top fundraiser and former foreign policy adviser. As prosecutors in the Eastern District Court of the United States alleged, Barrack’s private equity firm received hundreds of millions of dollars from the UAE’s sovereign wealth fund in 2017 – all at the same time Barrack allegedly inserted pro-UAE language into Trump speeches. , and while Barrack relayed internal White House discussions to his UAE handlers.
Between the charges against Wynn and the new allegations against Barrack, the Trump administration appears even more open to foreign interference than previously thought. And there’s little reason to think we won’t learn more details and more secret connections in the near future.
But it’s also clear that with the new trial, the Justice Department is ready to use more of the tools at its disposal to dig up these networks. It couldn’t come a moment too soon. As Trump eyes a 2024 run, foreign dictatorships around the world are seeking every opportunity they can find to potentially tilt American policy to their advantage – and to do so, as we have seen time and time again under the Trump’s presidency, without the rest of us knowing. .