Steve Wynn Claims DOJ’s FARA Demand Comes Too Late, Is Unconstitutional

Last week, casino billionaire Steve Wynn requested that a civil case brought against him by the Department of Justice be dismissed.

In May, the DOJ announced a lawsuit against Wynn. They claimed that the retired mogul had not registered as an agent of China when he’d allegedly lobbied the Trump administration in 2017 on behalf of the Chinese government.

In 2017, Wynn had been working as the finance chairman of the Republican National Committee and had allegedly contacted Trump several times about deporting Chinese national Guo Wengui.

Wengui had sought asylum in the US. To the DOJ’s eyes, Wynn should have registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) as an agent of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and a senior official of the PRC’s Ministry of Public Security (MPS).

Further, the DOJ suit alleges that Wynn relayed the PRC’s requests to Trump to protect his business interests in Macau, which Wynn’s lawyers have denied. They also said they’d asked Wynn to register several times — in 2018, 2021, and April this year. Each time, Wynn refused.

Wynn was the founder and CEO of Wynn Resorts, which now operates the online gambling brand WynnBet. He’s no longer associated with either, having been forced to step down from his company in 2018 amid sexual misconduct allegations.

Wynn Files for Dismissal

Last week, Wynn presented a threefold argument as to why the court should toss the case:

  • First, as argued by his attorneys, even if the DOJ’s allegations about his conduct are true, his obligation to file under FARA expired as soon as he’d stopped making his case to Trump several years ago.
  • Second, compelling him to register under FARA would violate his constitutional rights under the First and Fifth Amendments. He claims that doing so would contradict Wynn’s previous statements under oath to the government, asserting that he had not acted as a foreign agent.
  • Third, the conduct alleged in the DoJ lawsuit does not meet the legal standards for prompting the law’s registration requirement.

    “Don’t Shoot the Messenger”

    The second and third parts of that argument are interesting.

    Wynn’s lawyers claim that if he were to register now, it would be self-incrimination, as the government could use it as evidence to charge him with perjury.

    On the third point, according to Wynn’s lawyers, acting as a go-between for other parties doesn’t qualify as acting as a foreign agent. They state:

    The Complaint alleges only that Wynn was asked by [Chinese Vice Minister for Public Security] Sun [Lijun] to deliver a message from the PRC to the Administration, and that Wynn did so while expressly disclosing that the message was coming from the PRC.

    They also add:

    Merely delivering a message on behalf of a foreign government and checking on its status, without any accompanying efforts to influence on behalf of the foreign government, falls outside the scope of FARA.

    China Weighs In

    After the DoJ announced the lawsuit in May, Chinese Foreign Ministry senior official Wang Wenbin pooh-poohed the move, saying it was “based on nothing but hearsay to deliberately hype up the ‘China-threat’ theory.”

    Wang then added:

    We hope the U.S. will discard the Cold War and zero-sum mentality and stop making an issue of China at every turn.

    Wynn’s alleged ties to China stem from his former company’s properties there. Wynn Resorts runs the Wynn Macau and Wynn Palace resorts in Macau via its Hong Kong-listed Wynn Macau Ltd. business.

    (In a separate report, Wynn Macau announced in June that it has entered into an agreement with its US parent company, Wynn Resorts Ltd, for a $500 million revolving loan facility. Wynn Macau reported $161.2 million in net losses for 2022 Q1. It also registered a fall in operating revenues to $298.4 million, down 28.4% compared to the previous year.)

    The US government has until August 15 to respond to Wynn’s motion.

    About the Author

    Devon Jackson

    Devon Jackson

    Devon Jackson is a freelance writer with Bonus. He’s written for many different magazines and newspapers, from The New York Times and People to Sports Illustrated and Bloomberg. He has also worked as an editor—for The New Yorker, the Santa Fean, The Village Voice, and Discover, among others. Jackson likes to focus on the broader ramifications of the gaming industry—issues such as responsible gambling, the effects of cryptocurrency, or crossover between gambling and esports. In an era of fake news and truthiness, Jackson tries as best he can to leave the opinionating to the talking heads and give as big a picture as possible to the reader.
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