Trump fundraiser Elliott Broidy charged in foreign lobbying scheme

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A former Republican National Committee deputy finance chairman has been charged with acting as an unregistered foreign agent after he unsuccessfully lobbied President Trump and the Justice Department to drop charges against a corrupt East Asian businessman and to send a fugitive Chinese businessman back to China.

Elliott Broidy, a former top fundraiser for the Trump campaign, was indicted for conspiring to serve as an unregistered foreign agent to defraud the United States in a 31-page criminal information document unsealed on Thursday.

The Justice Department said that from March 2017 through January 2018, Broidy worked with Nickie Lum Davis, a longtime backer of Republican candidates, and Person A, reported to be former Fugees rapper Pras Michel, to be paid millions of dollars to act as agents of Foreign National A, wealthy East Asian businessman Jho Low, who has himself been charged for his role in orchestrating and executing a multibillion-dollar embezzlement scheme from Malaysian government-owned 1Malaysia Development Berhad.

The Justice Department said Broidy “specifically agreed to lobby” the Trump administration and the DOJ “to drop or otherwise favorably resolve its matters” against Jho Low. Prosecutors also said that Broidy, Davis, and Person A also “agreed to lobby” Trump and the DOJ “to arrange for the removal and return of People’s Republic of China National A” — believed to be Guo Wengui, a billionaire businessman and fugitive from China living in the U.S. — all on behalf of Jho Low, in a scheme which “involved, among other things, advocating for meetings between PRC Minister A and United States government officials.” Throughout all of this, Broidy failed to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act as required by law.

Broidy, who served as RNC deputy finance chairman beginning in 2017, resigned from his key position in 2018 after it was revealed that he had arranged to pay $1.6 million to a former Playboy model, Shera Bechard, whom he had reportedly impregnated during an affair. The alleged hush money arrangement was assisted by former Trump lawyer and convicted felon Michael Cohen.

“I acknowledge I had a consensual relationship with a Playboy Playmate,” Broidy said in a statement at the time. “At the end of our relationship, this woman shared with me that she was pregnant. She alone decided that she did not want to continue with the pregnancy and I offered to help her financially during this difficult period.”

The Justice Department said in records made public Thursday that it was “object of the conspiracy” for Broidy and the others to “orchestrate back-channel, unregistered campaigns” to lobby the Justice Department to end the 1MDB investigation and to remove Wengui from the U.S. to “make millions of dollars” by “leveraging” Broidy’s “access to and perceived influence with” Trump and his administration to secure payments from Jho Low, and to conceal Broidy’s contacts with Jho Low to “maintain his credibility” and “further the illegal advocacy scheme.”

The secretive foreign lobbying efforts by Broidy and his compatriots were ultimately unsuccessful. A federal court entered judgments against $700 million in assets acquired by Jho Low and his family located in the U.S., the United Kingdom, and Switzerland back in 2019, and the Justice Department said in April that the U.S. “has recovered or assisted in the recovery of more than $1 billion in assets associated with the 1MDB international money laundering and bribery scheme.”

Guo, likely best known as a vocal critic of the Chinese Communist Party and as an associate of former Trump campaign executive Steve Bannon, remains in the U.S.

The unsuccessful lobbying scheme unraveled well before Thursday’s indictment of Broidy. Davis pleaded guilty before a federal court in Hawaii in August to one count of aiding and abetting the violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, admitting to her role in “facilitating an unregistered lobbying campaign” and to being paid at least $3 million for her role in the scheme, which agreed to forfeit the money as part of her plea. And George Higginbotham, who had worked as a senior congressional affairs specialist with the Justice Department, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to make false statements in admitting his role in the scheme back in November 2018.

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