Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a primary election night party in Nashua, N.H., Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
In his gloating victory speech at the New Hampshire primaries on Tuesday night, former President Donald Trump took a moment to hype an ally seated nearby: Steve Wynn, a billionaire former casino operator whose alleged attempts to lobby Trump on behalf of the Chinese government are a classic example of the Trump administration’s chaos.
“We just won Nevada,” Trump said, referring to his uncontested status in Nevada’s upcoming caucus. “We have a man from Nevada here, Steve Wynn, wherever he may be,” Trump continued, gazing stage left from his podium. “Good to have you guys.”
Wynn is one of multiple Trump associates accused of participating in a plot to deport a prominent Chinese businessman seeking political asylum in the United States.
According to a recent Justice Department lawsuit, in 2017, Wynn pressed Trump on at least three occasions to cancel the visa of an unnamed businessman widely reported to be Guo Wengui, a Chinese billionaire and an outspoken critic of corruption in his home country. Trump allegedly told Wynn he would look into the matter.
At the time, Wynn was Trump’s handpicked finance chair of the Republican National Committee, and was responsible for putting together the president’s reelection war chest.
Wynn was also chair and CEO of Wynn Resorts, which operated three casinos in Macao, a region under Chinese control. Wynn allegedly discussed his casino business in calls and texts with a Chinese official who asked Wynn for help canceling the businessman’s visa.
In 2022, the Justice Department sued Wynn for pressuring Trump on China’s behalf without registering as a foreign agent, a violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
“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,” Matthew G. Olsen, an assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s national security division, said in announcing the lawsuit.
Lawyers for Wynn, who has previously denied the accusations, did not respond to a request for comment.
The suit points to two other former Republican fundraisers — GOP megadonor Elliott Broidy and Hawaii businesswoman Nickie Mali Lum Davis — as part of the scheme to deport Guo.
“President Xi Jinping appreciates [Wynn’s] assistance,” Broidy texted Wynn’s wife at one point, the suit claims.
Broidy and Lum Davis have already pleaded guilty to illegal lobbying activities.
Broidy admitted to violating FARA, the same law Wynn is accused of skirting, and copped to a separate scheme in which he accepted $9 million to try to derail an international embezzlement investigation.
Trump pardoned Broidy in one of his final acts as president.
The lawsuit against Wynn is asking a federal court to force him to register as a foreign agent. The Justice Department did not respond to questions about what other consequences Wynn might face if he loses.
A federal judge tossed the lawsuit in October 2022, saying the government couldn’t force the disclosure of the lobbying relationship after it had already ended. The Justice Department appealed, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit heard arguments this past November.
Wynn’s attorneys did not respond to questions on whether he is counting on Trump to pardon him or shield him from the DOJ’s lawsuit if the former president is reelected.
A onetime business rival of Trump, Wynn was a personal friend of Trump’s by the time he ran for president in 2016. Wynn was nevertheless one of many prominent Republican donors who declined to support Trump during his first election. After Trump’s victory, Wynn made amends by helping chair his inaugural committee, and Trump installed Wynn as finance chair of the Republican National Committee. Broidy was his deputy finance chair.
Wynn was toppled from his RNC role in 2018, when a Wall Street Journal story revealed he had paid a $7.5 million settlement to a worker in his flagship casino who accused him of forcing her to have sex. Dozens of others who had worked in his casinos told the Journal that Wynn had a decades-long pattern of sexual misconduct.
Wynn denied the allegations, saying, “The idea that I ever assaulted any woman is preposterous.” Weeks later, he resigned from the RNC and as chair and chief executive of Wynn Resorts.
The following month, the Wall Street Journal revealed that Broidy had paid a former Playboy model $1.6 million after she told Broidy, who was married at the time, that he had gotten her pregnant. Broidy left the RNC after the Journal published its report.
Wynn has since stayed in Trump’s orbit.
He donated more than $700,000 in 2020 to Trump Victory, a joint fundraising operation between the then-president and the Republican National Committee.
In 2022, federal records show, Wynn provided more than $63,000 worth of air travel to Make America Great Again, Again!, a Trump-controlled super PAC that sprinkled modest donations on Trump-endorsed candidates in the midterms.