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Steve Wynn Sued By DOJ For Lobbying Trump On Behalf Of China

Wynn Resorts Macau

Steve Wynn, the hotel tycoon who is the founder and former CEO of Wynn Resorts, was sued by the Department of Justice Tuesday for failing to register as a foreign agent.

In a complaint filed against Wynn, the DOJ said that it had urged him to register since 2018 when it became aware of a campaign — one that included disgraced former Republican National Committee Finance Chair Elliott Broidy and Prakazrel Michel, the former Fugees rapper who goes by Pras — to send a Chinese national seeking asylum in the U.S. back to China.

Wynn is accused of violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act after lobbying then-President Donald Trump to cancel the visa or otherwise remove an unnamed "PRC national" from the country from roughly June through August 2017.

The complaint further alleges that Wynn was acting in part to preserve his business interests in China. The mogul has developed three properties in Macao since 2006.

"The filing of this suit — the first affirmative civil lawsuit under FARA in more than three decades — demonstrates the department’s commitment to ensuring transparency in our democratic system,” Matthew G. Olsen, assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, said in a statement. "Where a foreign government uses an American as its agent to influence policy decisions in the United States, FARA gives the American people a right to know."

Wynn was allegedly pulled into the pressure campaign after Sun Lijun, the former vice minister for public security in the People's Republic of China, organized a meeting with Broidy, Michel and Hawaii business person Nickie Lum Davis asking them to convince Trump to send back the Chinese national seeking asylum from corruption charges.

Broidy allegedly reached out to Wynn due to his connnections with Trump and Republican officials. Wynn served as the RNC's finance chair from January 2017 to January 2018.

According to the complaint, Wynn first relayed the message to Trump during a June 27, 2017, dinner in D.C. Following the dinner, Wynn allegedly instructed his wife to send Broidy a text saying, "This is with the highest levels of the state department and defense department. They are working on this."

Ultimately, the DOJ said Wynn's campaign on behalf of Sun and China was unsuccessful. By October, the complaint alleges that Wynn instructed Sun to stop contacting him, noting that he "wanted to exit the situation gracefully, preserve his business interests in China, and avoid offending anyone."

But beginning in 2018, the DOJ said it began corresponding with Wynn, urging him to register as a foreign agent after learning about the saga. Wynn repeatedly refused, despite the DOJ expressing its growing conviction that he had operated as a foreign agent. 

The other players named in the complaint have already faced consequences for back-channel lobbying. Both Broidy and Lum Davis pleaded guilty to violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act as a result of their actions in what appears to be the same campaign, admitting they made millions in lobbying fees.

The rapper Pras is currently fighting charges related to this case and a separate alleged money laundering scheme in which Broidy and Lum Davis pleaded guilty. His international tour with the Fugees was put in jeopardy as a result of his legal troubles, according to NME.

This isn't the first time Wynn has drawn controversy. He stepped down from his namesake company in 2018 after a Wall Street Journal report detailed decades of sexual misconduct allegations.

Also following those allegations, his $2.6B casino and resort in Boston dropped his name ahead of its 2019 opening. The property was sold for $1.7B to Realty Income in a sale-leaseback deal.