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In what may be a sea change in enforcing the Foreign Agent Registration Act, the Justice Department has filed a complaint for the first time in more than 30 years to compel an individual — former Republican National Committee Treasury Chairman Stephen A. Wynn — to register as foreign agent.
In general, FARA is a disclosure system that requires individuals to register with the Attorney General when lobbying US government officials on behalf of foreign clients or attempting to influence the American public.
The DOJ alleges that in 2017, then RNC Deputy Chief Financial Officer Elliott Broidy acted as an agent for both former Vice Minister of Public Security of the People’s Republic of China Sun Lijun and the PRC itself, hired Mr. Wynn, President To help Trump and his administration lobby to remove a Chinese billionaire businessman, Guo Wengui, from the United States. After leaving China in 2014, Mr. Guo was charged by the PRC government with various forms of corrupt dealings, kidnapping and rape. Mr. Guo applied for asylum in the United States in 2017 and has lived in Manhattan ever since. In 2020, Mr. Broidy pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate FARA for his role in the PRC influence campaign.
The DOJ’s complaint probably came as no surprise to Mr. Wynn. The Justice Department brought this action only after advising Mr. Wynn on three separate occasions that he needed to register as a foreign agent. According to the complaint, in a letter dated April 13, 2022, the DOJ told him he had 30 days to register.
The lawsuit follows the DOJ’s recent aggressive enforcement of FARA, including indictments last year against a top Trump campaign adviser, Thomas Barrack, for alleged efforts on behalf of the United Arab Emirates, the campaign and subsequently the Trump Administration to influence pro-UAE foreign policy positions. The DOJ’s efforts have not been without setbacks, most notably the 2019 acquittal of Greg Craig, former President Obama’s White House counsel who was accused of failing to register as a foreign agent for work he and his law firm did in the United States Executed order of Ukraine. Despite this loss, the complaint shows that the DOJ is not shy about using the machinery of the courts, aside from prosecution, to compel individuals to comply with FARA when it believes registration is necessary.
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