U.S. Accuses Steve Wynn of Lobbying Trump on Behalf of China
The Justice Department sued the former casino mogul Stephen Wynn on Tuesday, saying he had made repeated requests on behalf of the Chinese government to Donald J. Trump when he was president and seeking to force Mr. Wynn to register as a foreign agent.
In 2017, Mr. Wynn pushed Mr. Trump to deport a Chinese businessman who had sought asylum in the United States, according to the lawsuit. At the time, Mr. Wynn was the finance chairman of the Republican National Committee, a role he had been handpicked for by Mr. Trump.
The suit accuses Mr. Wynn of broaching the topic several times, including at a dinner with Mr. Trump and other administration officials in late June 2017, when he passed along passport photos of the individual to Mr. Trump’s secretary; during unscheduled meetings with Mr. Trump in August of that year; and by phone while aboard a yacht off the coast of Italy. Mr. Trump told Mr. Wynn he would look into the matter, according to the suit.
The Chinese businessman is not named in the suit, but he is known to be Guo Wengui, a billionaire real estate magnate and an outspoken critic of Chinese government self-dealing who formed an alliance with Stephen K. Bannon, a former White House strategist for Mr. Trump. The effort to have him deported was ultimately unsuccessful, according to the lawsuit.
The suit also paints Mr. Wynn as furthering his own interests in Macau, a region of China known for its casinos that was critical for Mr. Wynn’s business. Mr. Wynn resigned as chairman and chief executive of his company, Wynn Resorts, in 2018 after being accused of sexual misconduct. He also stepped down as finance chairman of the R.N.C.
The Justice Department said that it had asked Mr. Wynn to register himself as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act in 2018, 2021 and April of this year, but that he had refused.
“Obviously, I disagreed with the Justice Department, which is why I have not registered,” Mr. Wynn said in a text message to The New York Times on Tuesday. He added that he would leave the matter to his lawyer and would not be making further comments.
The Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, requires people who lobby or provide public relations services for foreign governments to disclose those activities to the Justice Department. The law had gone mostly unenforced for decades, but the department prioritized it during Mr. Trump’s administration.
According to the lawsuit, Sun Lijun, then the Chinese vice minister for public security, first approached three people in May 2017 with a request that the Trump administration cancel the visa of the Chinese businessman. The suit names Elliott B. Broidy, a former R.N.C. finance chairman and a top Trump fund-raiser; Nickie Lum Davis, another Republican fund-raiser; and the rapper Pras Michel. (Mr. Broidy and Ms. Lum Davis both pleaded guilty in 2020 to charges related to their roles in a covert campaign to influence the Trump administration on behalf of Chinese and Malaysian interests. Mr. Trump pardoned Mr. Broidy shortly before leaving office.)
In June 2017, Mr. Broidy passed the request from Mr. Sun to Mr. Wynn, according to the suit, and later, Mr. Sun made the case directly to Mr. Wynn. Mr. Sun had told Mr. Broidy that he wanted Mr. Guo placed on the national no-fly list and to have his application for a new visa denied, the suit stated.
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After Mr. Wynn passed along the request during a dinner with Mr. Trump in June 2017, Mr. Broidy told Mr. Wynn that Mr. Sun and China’s leader, Xi Jinping, were thankful for his help. Mr. Wynn also reportedly brought up his business interests in Macau over several phone calls with Mr. Sun.
In a statement, Matthew G. Olsen, an assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s national security division, said it was “the first affirmative civil lawsuit under FARA in more than three decades.”
“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,” he said.
Maggie Haberman and Kenneth P. Vogel contributed reporting.