politics

DOJ: Barrack and Wynn losses won’t derail crackdown on foreign influence

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In his first public comments on the cases of Barrack and Steve Wynn, the casino mogul and GOP megadonor who recently won a dismissal of a DOJ lawsuit to compel him to register as a foreign agent, Bratt said said the public losing streak “is not going to deter us from making those tough choices.

Bratt said such speculation reflected “a fundamental misunderstanding of how we do business.”

To underscore his point, he pointed to the recent indictment, revealed earlier this week, of former Rep. David Rivera (R-Fla.) for allegedly failing to register as a foreign agent of the Venezuelan government.

But bringing charges is not the same as winning convictions. And on that latter front, the department headed by Bratt has fallen on hard times recently.

Barrack, along with an associate, had been accused of working illegally to influence public opinion, the Trump campaign and the Trump administration on behalf of the United Arab Emirates. Bratt noted that the case was one of the department’s most high-profile attempts to use a law colloquially known as espionage-lite to prosecute an alleged malign foreign influence campaign.

Even then, he pointed out that the facts of the case were “not hotly contested,” but the jury ultimately accepted Barrack’s claim that he was acting on his own and working to advance his business interests. He said the DOJ respects the not guilty verdict in this case.

The DOJ lawsuit against Wynn was the department’s first of its kind in 30 years. It was rejected in October based on long-standing appeals court precedent that prohibits the DOJ from requiring foreign agents to register retroactively once they are no longer performing that job, and has never been judged on the merits. Bratt said the department is weighing its options, including the possibility of taking future cases to different jurisdictions. But the department “didn’t come in saying we had to stop” the continued use of this enforcement tactic, he said.

The department has had some success in its increased enforcement of foreign agent laws, which dates back to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s sprawling investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. in simple conformity. Bratt said the number of active enrollees in FARA continued to increase over the past year and that the FARA unit is growing in size.

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