Published: July 13, 2022

Casino tycoon Wynn expands defense team in U.S. 'foreign-agent' lawsuit

Casino tycoon Steve Wynn has expanded his legal team amid a U.S. Justice Department lawsuit claiming he lobbied the Trump administration at the request of Beijing without disclosing his status as a "foreign agent." The former Wynn Resorts CEO added longtime Washington, D.C., trial lawyer Robert Luskin of Paul Hastings to the defense team, joining lawyers from Steptoe & Johnson, a court filing in the case showed on Friday.

Wynn has denied the Justice Department's claims that he acted as an agent for China and that he breached an obligation to disclose his alleged lobbying work under the federal Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). Luskin on Friday declined to comment, and his attorneys Reid Weingarten and Brian Heberlig, longtime white-collar partners at Steptoe, did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment. Luskin's other clients include former Trump-era U.S. ambassador Gordon Sondland, who is suing the U.S. to recoup legal fees tied to his testimony at the first impeachment inquiry of then-President Donald Trump. Luskin also represented professional cyclist Lance Armstrong in his clash with the U.S. government over performance-enhancing drugs. Weingarten's clients have included former Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein. Heberlig was a lead attorney for one of the Blackwater security guards charged with manslaughter for a shooting in Iraq in 2007. The guards were later pardoned by Trump.

The government's lawsuit accuses Wynn of failing to register under FARA and seeks a court order forcing him to do so. The decades-old foreign agent registration law requires lawyers, lobbyists, public relations professionals and others to disclose certain advocacy for foreign clients that goes beyond traditional court-based legal work. The DOJ said Wynn in 2017 contacted Trump and staff members at the behest of China to ask the administration to cancel the visa or otherwise remove from the U.S. a Chinese businessperson who had sought political asylum here. The person was not named in the DOJ's lawsuit. The lawsuit said the department advised Wynn of his obligation to register his work several times between 2018 and 2022. A Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment on the case Friday.

The case is United States v. Wynn, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, No. 1:22-cv-01372-JEB. For the U.S.: Nathan Swinton and Emma Ellenrieder of the Justice Department For Wynn: Reid Weingarten and Brian Heberlig of Steptoe & Johnson; and Robert Luskin of Paul Hastings

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