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Trump donor pleads guilty to secretly lobbying for foreign interests

A campaign worker for then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump hands out information before a town hall meeting at Pinkerton Academy in Derry, N.H., on August 19, 2015. File Photo by Matthew Healey/UPI
A campaign worker for then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump hands out information before a town hall meeting at Pinkerton Academy in Derry, N.H., on August 19, 2015. File Photo by Matthew Healey/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 20 (UPI) -- Elliott Broidy, a former major fundraiser for President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign, pleaded guilty Tuesday to violating lobbying laws by secretly accepting millions of dollars from foreign interests to influence the White House.

Broidy, 66, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly for the District of Columbia to one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Agents Registration Act, agreeing to forfeit the $6.6 million he profited in the scheme as part of his plea deal, the Justice Department said in a release.

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The venture capitalist from Beverly Hills faces up to five years in prison with sentencing scheduled for Feb. 12.

Prosecutors charged Broidy earlier this month with conspiring to secretly work for a Chinese government minister and a foreign national to influence the Trump administration.

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"Elliott Broidy sought to lobby the highest levels of the U.S. government to drop one of the largest fraud and money laundering prosecutions ever brought and to deport a critic of the Chinese Communist Party, all the while concealing the foreign interests whose bidding he was doing," Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers of the Justice Department's National Security Division said in a statement. "His guilty plea is the first step in vindicating the principle of transparency that undergirds the free flow of ideas in our democratic system."

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The Justice Department said Broidy pleaded guilty to agreeing to lobby Trump, the Justice Department, its attorney general and other top administration officials to drop a civil forfeiture case concerning the embezzlement of billions of dollars from 1Malaysia Development Berhad, a Malaysian government strategic investment fund and company better known as 1MDB.

Broidy was paid $9 million by the unnamed foreign national believed to be Malaysian financier Jho Low, and the Justice Department described Broidy's conspirator as "the alleged architect of the 1MDB scheme."

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The Justice Department charged Low in 2018 on charges of conspiring with others to embezzle billions from 1MDB as well as conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by paying bribes to Malaysian and Abu Dhabi officials.

Broidy pleaded guilty to receiving $9 million for his illegal lobbying work between March 2017 and January 2018, of which he paid $2.4 million to his co-conspirator Nickie Lum Davis, who pleaded guilty on Aug. 31.

George Higginbotham, a former Justice Department employee, pleaded guilty for his involvement in November 2018.

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Prosecutors said Broidy also admitted to pushing Trump to play golf with Prime Minister Najib Razak in order to allow the Malaysian dignitary to discuss the 1MDB investigation. A Malaysian court sentenced Razak to 12 years in prison in July on corruption and money laundering charges in connection to the 1MDB scandal.

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Broidy also pleaded guilty to attempting to influence the Trump administration on behalf of a People's Republic of China minister to extradite a dissident living in the United States, the Justice Department said.

In the plea deal, Broidy said he attempted to arrange meetings between an unnamed Chinese minister and the heads of the Justice Department and Homeland security as well as other high-level administration officials while the foreign politician was visiting the United States in May 2017 concerning the extradition case.

The Justice Department said none of his illegal lobbying was successful.

"This case demonstrates how foreign governments and principals seek to advance their agendas in the United States by hiding behind politically influential proxies," Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department's Criminal Division said in a statement. "Such conduct poses a serious threat to our national security and undermines the integrity of our democracy."

Judge Kollar-Kotelly said during the hearing that prosecutors declined to bring charges against Broidy over his attempts to influence U.S. policy concerning a Middle Eastern country.

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