Longtime GOP fundraiser Elliott Broidy has been charged in a criminal information with conspiring to act as a foreign agent as he lobbied the Trump administration on behalf of Malaysian and Chinese government interests, an indication he is likely to soon plead guilty in the case to resolve the allegations against him.
Prosecutors unsealed the 31-page information against Broidy on Thursday, outlining how they believe he took millions in undisclosed money to end a U.S. investigation into a billion-dollar embezzlement of a Malaysian state investment fund and, separately, to return outspoken Chinese exile Guo Wengui to his home country. A criminal information is a type of charging document typically reserved for those who have agreed to plead guilty in a case. A lawyer for Broidy declined to comment.
The allegations mark the culmination of a sprawling, years-long investigation that became focused in part on a man who helped raise millions for President Donald Trump’s election and the Republican Party.
Last month, The Washington Post reported that federal prosecutors were zeroing in on Broidy, after one of his business associates, Nickie Mali Lum Davis, pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate in the case. The allegations against Broidy are very similar to those against Davis. Prosecutors said in the charges against Broidy that he and others orchestrated “back-channel, unregistered campaigns” to influence the administration, though their efforts were ultimately unsuccessful.
Broidy – according to the information, previous court documents and people familiar with the matter – directly made entreaties to high-level people in the Trump administration or others close to it, including Trump’s then-chief of staff, Reince Priebus; his former deputy campaign chairman, Rick Gates; and the president himself.
During the 2016 campaign, Broidy, a Los Angeles-based investor, helped corral big donors to support Trump’s campaign. After the election, he was appointed to serve as a national deputy finance chairman for the Republican National Committee. Broidy resigned from that post in April 2018 in the wake of a report that he had paid a former Playboy model $1.6 million in exchange for her silence about a sexual affair. Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen – another RNC fundraiser – helped arrange the settlement, Broidy acknowledged at the time.
The charges against Broidy are the latest blow to the RNC’s fundraising leadership under Trump. Cohen, who also served as a deputy finance chair of the RNC, resigned his party position in June 2018, several months before he pleaded guilty to bank fraud, tax evasion and campaign finance violations committed on Trump’s behalf. Steve Wynn, a close Trump confidant and former casino executive, served as the party’s first finance chairman under Trump but resigned in January 2018 after he was accused of sexual harassment and assault, accusations he has denied.
The investigation of Broidy is tied to a massive probe of theft from a Malaysian government development fund that has come to be known by the shorthand “1MDB.” In previous civil and criminal cases, federal prosecutors have alleged that stolen money that made its way into the United States was used to buy pricey real estate and even fund the award-winning movie “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
At the center of the case is a Malaysian businessman named Low Taek Jho, who was indicted in 2018 and accused of funneling tens of millions of dollars into the United States in part to get the investigation dropped. Low, who is facing multiple federal indictments, is believed to be in China, outside the reach of U.S. authorities. He has denied the allegations and said they are politically motivated.
In a statement, Guo called the case “a microcosm of the Chinese Communist Party’s far-ranging campaign undertaken utilizing corrupt lawyers, government officials, and so-called lobbyists and political consultants to influence the U.S. government at the highest levels to take action against me.”
According to documents filed in connection with Davis’s plea and people familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe an ongoing investigation, Low was funding Broidy’s lobbying efforts – both to get the 1MDB investigation dropped and to get Guo sent back to China. Guo is a vocal online critic of that country’s government and is wanted by authorities in Beijing on charges of fraud, blackmail and bribery. He has denied those charges and said they are politically motivated.
In the past few years, Guo has been closely aligned with Stephen K. Bannon, Trump’s former campaign chief and top White House strategist. Bannon was on Guo’s yacht off the coast of Westbrook, Conn., when Bannon was arrested last month on charges he defrauded donors to a group that claimed to be building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Davis admitted she, along with Broidy and former Fugees rapper Pras Michel, met with a Chinese official in a Hong Kong hotel suite in May 2017 and the official asked for Broidy’s help convincing the United States to send Guo back to China.
Broidy then made entreaties to top-level Trump administration officials and enlisted the help of Wynn, according to the documents and the people with knowledge of the case. An attorney for Wynn has said his client is cooperating with investigators. Michel, who is charged in connection with separate dealings with Low, has denied wrongdoing.
Broidy, according to court documents, tried unsuccessfully to set up a meeting between the Chinese official – whom people familiar with the matter identified as Sun Lijun, then-vice minister of public security – and then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Broidy then sent a memo intended for Sessions drafted with information from Sun promising greater law enforcement cooperation if Guo were deported, court documents said. It’s unclear whether the memo was passed on to Sessions, according to court documents.
Broidy also sought to convince officials to drop the 1MDB investigation, according to the documents and people. Davis acknowledged that she was paid $1.7 million, that she helped route an $8 million retainer to Broidy for the influence campaign and that Low offered to pay a $75 million “success fee” as part of a contract with Broidy’s wife’s law firm if the 1MDB case was resolved within 180 days.
According to prosecutors in Thursday’s charging papers, documents filed with Davis’s plea and people familiar with the matter, Broidy met with Trump at the White House in October 2017 and falsely told others that he raised the subject of the 1MDB investigation. In the criminal information against Broidy, prosecutors alleged that in a show of influence, Broidy in June 2017 personally asked Trump to play a round of golf with then-Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who was later convicted on charges in Malaysia related to the 1MDB scandal and sentenced to 12 years in prison. Razak has denied wrongdoing.
Despite Broidy’s entreaties to high-ranking White House and National Security Council officials – and President Trump’s agreement to the game, according to the information – no golf game ultimately took place, though Razak did meet with Trump at the White House.
A former attorney for Broidy told the Wall Street Journal in 2018 that at no time did Broidy, his wife “or anyone acting on their behalf, discuss Mr. Low’s case with President Trump, any member of his staff, or anyone at the U.S. Department of Justice.”
A former Justice Department employee and Michel acquaintance, George Higginbotham, has pleaded guilty to helping illicitly move tens of millions of dollars from Low into the United States to finance the lobbying effort.
Overall, Malaysia and the United States have alleged that more than $4.5 billion was stolen from 1MDB. The U.S. government has sought the forfeiture of $2.1 billion in related assets and recovered nearly $1.1 billion.
– – –
The Washington Post’s Rosalind S. Helderman and Spencer S. Hsu contributed to this report.