Feds Sue Vegas Casino Kingpin Steve Wynn for Lobbying Trump on China’s Behalf

  • Feds allege Wynn lobbied Trump at China’s request when he was chairman of Wynn Resorts
  • The suit alleges Wynn asked the Trump administration for the return of a Chinese national
  • The DOJ said Wynn’s actions came from a “desire to protect his business interests in Macau”
  • Wynn Resorts operates three casinos in Macau, a Special Administrative Region of China
Wynn sign in China
The Feds are suing Steve Wynn over lobbying the Trump administration on behalf of the Chinese government, allegedly to protect his business interests in Macau, such as Wynn Macau (pictured). [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Failure to register as a foreign agent

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) has sued former gaming kingpin Steve Wynn for failing to register as a foreign agent, alleging he lobbied ex-President Donald Trump on behalf of the Chinese government when he was chairman and CEO of Wynn Resorts.

repeatedly advised Wynn to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act

The DOJ filed the civil enforcement action against Wynn in the US District Court for the District of Columbia on Tuesday. It claims the federal body repeatedly advised Wynn to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) on behalf of China over the last four years, only for the Las Vegas hotelier to decline.

The action alleges Wynn contacted Trump and members of his administration between June 2017 and August 2017 at the behest of the Chinese government, which was seeking the return of a Chinese national to its borders.

The DOJ said in a statement that Wynn “acted at the request of the People’s Republic of China out of a desire to protect his business interests in Macau.”

Protecting Asian interests

Wynn Resorts owns and operates three casinos in Macau, a Special Administrative Region of China. According to the Huffington Post, at the time of the contact with the Trump administration, the Macau government had placed a limit on the number of gaming tables and slots Las Vegas-headquartered Wynn could operate in Macau. Wynn was also due to renegotiate the operator’s Macau license in 2019.

Wynn stepped down as chairman of Wynn Resorts in 2018 following sexual misconduct allegations.

It’s 2017, however, that the Feds are interested in. At this time, according to the complaint, Wynn asked the Trump administration to extradite from the US a Chinese businessman who left China in 2014. The Chinese government later charged the man with corruption, after which he sought political asylum in the US.

The DOJ statement added that Wynn entered these negotiations at “the request of Sun Lijun,” then the Vice Minister of China’s Ministry of Public Security. Wynn conveyed the request directly to Trump over dinner and by telephone. Wynn also engaged in “multiple discussions with the then-President and senior officials at the White House and National Security Council about organizing a meeting with Sun and other PRC government officials.”

In a statement Tuesday, Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen outlined why it was of national importance that Wynn register as a foreign agent. “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.”

What next for Wynn?

The suit against Wynn is the first affirmative civil lawsuit under FARA in over 30 years.

At this stage, however, it’s not immediately apparent what penalties, if any, lie in wait for the 80-year-old. The DOJ wants the federal court to order Wynn to submit “a true and complete registration statement” and “other and further relief as the court may deem just and proper.”

no longer providing statements nor taking interviews”

According to HP, a spokesperson for the ex-gaming mogul, who now lives in Florida, said Wynn “is exercising his rights as a private citizen and is no longer providing statements nor taking interviews.”

Associated Press reporter for national security at the DOJ and FBI, Eric Tucker, took to Twitter to share the response from Wynn’s lawyers, who refute the federal accusations and say they will contest the suit: