WASHINGTON — Elliott Broidy, a former top fundraiser for President Trump and the Republican Party, has been charged by the Department of Justice with criminal conspiracy for allegedly acting as a foreign lobbyist without registering under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
A charging document signed by lawyers in the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Division says Broidy and an associate, Nickie Lum Davis, took millions of dollars to “orchestrate back-channel, unregistered campaigns to lobby the Administration and DOJ” on behalf of two unnamed foreign individuals. The first person is widely believed to Low Taek Jho, who is accused of embezzling billions of dollars from Malaysia’s 1MDB sovereign wealth fund, and the second person is believed to be Guo Wengui, a wealthy Chinese dissident in the United States.
According to the charging documents, Broidy and Davis lobbied the Trump administration to drop or favorably resolve a Justice Department case involving Low Taek Jho’s alleged embezzlement scandal. They also lobbied the administration and the White House to remove Guo, the Chinese dissident, from the U.S. and return him to the People’s Republic of China at the request of a senior Chinese government official. (Both campaigns were unsuccessful.) The government’s lawyers say Broidy and Davis sought to “make millions of dollars by leveraging Broidy’s access to and perceived influence with the President and his Administration in order to secure payments from” Low Taek Jho. They also accuse Broidy of concealing his “contacts with and payments from” Low “to maintain Broidy’s credibility with United States officials and to further the illegal advocacy scheme.” He faces one count of criminal conspiracy.
“These allegations read almost like a textbook FARA violation,” Joshua Rosenstein, a lawyer at Sandler Reiff Lamb Rosenstein and Birkenstock who specializes in the Foreign Agents Registration Act, tells Rolling Stone. “Based on what DOJ laid out, Broidy and his co-conspirators appear to have flouted this crucial national security statute with sheer impunity, actively seeking to shield their lobbying of the White House and their illegal payments from public view. The question remains whether the President may end up intervening in this process in behalf of another old friend of his.”
According to the New York Times, Broidy is expected to plead guilty to the criminal conspiracy charge. If he does, Broidy will join a slew of Trump campaign aides and associates who have been indicted or convicted during Trump’s first term. That list includes campaign chairman Paul Manafort, White House adviser Steve Bannon, campaign aide Rick Gates, personal attorney and adviser Michael Cohen, campaign aide George Papadopoulos, national security adviser Michael Flynn, and political adviser Roger Stone.
As Rolling Stone reported in 2019, Broidy was emblematic of the kinds of swamp creatures drawn, ironically, to the presidential campaign and presidency of Donald Trump, who had of course vowed to “drain the swamp.” Broidy had been a major Republican fundraiser under George W. Bush, only to fall out of favor when he pleaded guilty in 2009 to bribing officials in the office of the New York State Comptroller. (Broidy’s charge was reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor for his cooperation with government investigators.) Then-New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo called it “an old-fashioned payoff of state officials.”
Broidy vanished from politics for several years but resurfaced during the 2016 presidential campaign. He donated to several Republican candidates before throwing his weight behind presumptive nominee Trump. Broidy was named a national deputy finance chairman by the Republican National Committee and raised millions for Trump’s campaign, even earning a personal shoutout from the president back in 2017.
The Justice Department’s charging document, other court records, and documents previously obtained by Rolling Stone reveal how Broidy sought to capitalize on his access to Trump, the president’s inner circle, and top officials in the Trump administration. The government’s charging document describes the hugely lucrative deal that Broidy put together in his lobbying effort on behalf of Low, the Malaysian fugitive: In addition to an $8 million fee upfront, Broidy would receive an additional $75 million if Low’s legal problems with the Justice Department went away after 180 days, or a $50 million fee if the “matter” were resolved within 365 days. “The true purpose of the retention agreement was to secure Broidy’s services to lobby the Administration and DOJ on Foreign National A’s behalf based on Broidy’s political connections,” the charging document reads.
According to the charging document, Broidy and Davis, his associate, engaged in a months-long pressure campaign to get the 1MDB embezzlement case dropped, as well as to get face time for the Malaysian prime minister with President Trump. Broidy and Davis exchanged numerous messages, cited in the government’s filing, that shows how they allegedly lobbied the White House National Security Council and other administration officials related to Malaysia and the Low case.
In the case of Chinese dissident Gu Wengui, Broidy was allegedly acting at the behest of a senior Chinese government official widely believed to be Sun Lijun, then the vice minister of public security in China. According to the government, Broidy met with Sun in Shenzhen, China, and Sun asked him to “use his influence with high-ranking United States government officials” to advocate for Guo’s return to China. Sun also said he was having trouble securing meetings with Trump administration officials for an upcoming visit to the U.S.
According to the U.S. government, Broidy did not properly disclose his contacts with Sun, the Chinese vice minister, and proceeded to contact multiple government officials with the objective of securing Guo’s removal from the U.S.
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