A federal judge on Wednesday threw out the Justice Department’s lawsuit against casino mogul and Republican megadonor Steve Wynn seeking an order that he register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
The ruling represents is an embarrassing blow to the Justice Department, which almost never moves to use a civil lawsuit to force a FARA registration. Earlier this year, the department said this was the first time it has filed this kind of affirmative civil lawsuit in three decades.
The Justice Department maintained that Wynn needed to register as a foreign agent because he was working as on behalf of the People’s Republic of China and a former PRC official, Sun Lijun, with messages he conveyed to then-President Donald Trump and the Trump administration.
But District Judge James Boasberg disagreed, dismissing the case and agreeing with Wynn’s argument that he should be shielded by a 1987 federal appeals court decision that “interpreted FARA’s … registration obligation to expire upon the termination of an agency relationship.”
Wynn had argued that under the DC Circuit precedent, any obligation he had to register – even if the allegations were true – ended by October 2017, which is when DOJ alleges that Wynn’s relationship with the Chinese government ended.
In his 20-page ruling, Boasberg agreed that Wynn should have registered under FARA as a matter of public interest. “Indeed, the court does not dispute that even agents who have since ended their agency relationship but who never registered their activities are still in possession of ‘information that (FARA) says the public needs,’” he wrote. But the law requires the case be dismissed, he added.
“While the goals of FARA are laudable, this court is bound to apply the statute as interpreted by the DC Circuit. And that requires dismissal,” Boasberg wrote.
The DOJ complaint, filed in May, pointed to messages Wynn delivered to Trump and his administration communicating “PRC’s request to remove from the country a PRC national who had sought political asylum in the United States.” The Justice Department says it sent Wynn letters in May 2018, October 2021 and April 2022 informing him of his obligation to register under FARA before it is sought an injunction from the court requiring him to do so.
In 2018, Wynn stepped down as chief executive of Wynn Resorts and as finance chair of the RNC amid allegations of sexual misconduct at his casino company. Wynn has denied the allegations.
“We are delighted that the District Court today dismissed the government’s ill-conceived lawsuit against Steve Wynn,” Reid Weingarten and Robert Luskin, attorneys for Wynn, said in a statement following the ruling Wednesday. “Mr. Wynn never acted as an agent of the Chinese government and never lobbied on its behalf. This is a claim that should never have been filed, and the Court agreed.”
This story has been updated with additional details.
CNN’s Kara Scannell and Tierney Sneed contributed to this report.