Did the Biden administration just give the Hunter Biden defense a boost? – JONATHAN TURLEY

Below is my column in the New York Post on the implications of the recent civil lawsuit against Steve Wynn for allegedly working as an agent for China. The lawsuit was filed under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. The timing of the move to civil penalties is important given the ongoing investigation of Hunter Biden for possible FARA violations. The Biden administration’s decision to walk away from criminal charges under FARA could prove very advantageous for Hunter Biden.

Here is the column:

The Justice Department sued former casino mogul Steve Wynn this week for allegedly working as an agent for China. The lawsuit under the Foreign Agents Registration Act is bad news for Wynn, but it could be a win for another potential target: Hunter Biden.

By bringing this action as a civil lawsuit, the Justice Department may have undermined the ongoing investigation by David Weiss, Delaware’s U.S. attorney, into Hunter Biden’s foreign dealings. This civil lawsuit doesn’t necessarily exclude Weiss, but Biden’s team can now argue that criminally charging him with a FARA violation would be inconsistent with contemporary investigations.

I recently testified in Congress on the FARA lawsuits and noted that the Justice Department had largely dropped civil actions under the statute in favor of criminal charges. Special Counsel Robert Mueller has targeted various Trump officials with FARA, using the law to investigate, search or indict lawyers from Paul Manafort to Rudy Giuliani to Victoria Toensing.

I testified earlier that “after escalating prosecutions over the past decade, the Department of Justice has set a precedent for the criminalization of what were previously treated as administrative offenses. From Paul Manafort to the ongoing Hunter Biden investigation, there remain questions about whether the Justice Department will operate to a single, consistent, and predictable standard.

Some in the administration may be hoping that this accusation will force a consistent approach that effectively decriminalize any violation under investigation in Delaware.

The feds sued Wynn over his efforts to intervene in the case of a Chinese businessman Guo Wengui, a billionaire real estate magnate and critic of the Chinese government. Beijing wanted the businessman back in China and hoped to persuade the US government to deny him a visa.

Wynn spoke to President Donald Trump about the case, a call that carried added weight due to Wynn’s position as finance chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Wynn has interests in Macau and his intervention would have been appreciated by senior Chinese officials. The Justice Department asked Wynn to register as an agent, but he refused.

What is most striking about this case is its seriousness, especially when compared to past criminal cases like the prosecution of Paul Manafort. Here, Sun Lijun, then China’s vice minister of public security, reportedly organized the lobbying effort in 2017 and contacted the likes of Elliott Broidy, a former RNC finance chairman, and Nickie Lum Davis, a top fundraiser. of funds from Trump. Broidy and Davis later pleaded guilty in the prosecution.

The question is why Broidy was criminally prosecuted in 2020 under FARA, including for his work on the Guo case, but the Biden administration suddenly decided that the Wynn part of the deals should be treated as a civil matter. . It comes just as a grand jury would consider charges against Hunter Biden that could include FARA violations.

Wynn reportedly not only acted at the behest of Chinese officials, but could have come into direct contact with Trump to pressure him on the issue. He had no apparent interest in Guo, who would face a dire future if deported to China. But he had significant financial interests in China and the investigation led to other criminal charges.

A huge, high-profile case like Wynn’s isn’t just left to local prosecutors. The main judge is often involved in such investigations and charging decisions. Other organizations may also be involved.

The decision to deviate from previous cases and proceed civilly could not come at a better time for Hunter Biden. If the Justice Department applied the same approach used in the Paul Manafort case, Biden would consider the serious prospect of a felony charge.

Biden discussed whether to register in light of his extensive work on behalf of foreign interests in what many see as blatant influence peddling. This work occurred during the same period as Wynn’s work. In 2017, Biden texted associate Tony Bobulinski: “No matter what it will take to be an American company at some level for us to be able to bid on federal and state funded projects. Also, we don’t want to have to register as foreign agents under the FCPA [Foreign Corrupt Practices Act] which is much larger than people who should know choose not to know. james [Biden] has very particular opinions on this, so I would ask him about the foreign entity.

There was good reason to be concerned given the wide range of foreign clients and their interest in using Hunter’s access and influence. The president’s son worked with CEFC, a Chinese Communist Party-linked company headed by Ye Jianming. The Ministry of Justice criminally accused one of Ye’s associates, Patrick Ho, in 2017 under the FCPA. The first call he reportedly made after his arrest was to James Biden, who said he was trying to reach his nephew, Hunter.

Hunter worked on a joint venture between an entity called Sinohawk and CEFC. He had many relationships with Chinese personalities as well as with officials in Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and other countries. The emails referred to meetings with his father, then vice president. In 2014, he wrote to former business partner Devon Archer about an upcoming trip to Ukraine of “my guy” – his father. He noted that this should “be characterized as part of our advice and thinking – but what he will say and do is beyond our control”. (Archer would later be convicted of fraud in a separate case).

Hunter Biden hosted meetings between his father and Ukrainian and foreign clients. He also continued to raise concerns about registration laws, noting that leaders of Ukrainian energy company Burisma “need to know unequivocally that we will not and cannot intervene directly with national decision-makers, and that we must comply with FARA and all other US laws in the strictest sense in all areas.

However, he never registered. Like Wynn, he maintained that his work for foreign interests fell short of the FARA line despite the expansive interpretation the Justice Department had given in past criminal cases. Compared to those other cases, Hunter Biden seems way above the line. In United States v. Chaudhry, a US resident pleaded guilty under FARA to attempting to influence the views of various US think tanks on US-Pakistan relations.

Now the Justice Department has dropped years of criminal charges in favor of civil ones. Many of us have questioned the need to criminalize these charges and the broad reach of FARA. But the timing of the Biden administration’s sudden change could not have come at a more opportune time for the president’s son.

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