Wynn expressed optimism about Cruz’s chances within the crowded GOP field. Wynn then lambasted Trump, the frontrunner at the time, castigating the real-estate mogul’s record as a “businessman” and “casino owner.” Wynn snickered about how Trump’s Vegas property stood pitifully far from the Strip, the stretch of land coveted by any hopeful casino or hotel owner in the city. “He was just clowning on him,”
.. So when, on the eve of Trump’s decisive victory in the Nevada caucus two months later, the candidate touted his support from none other than Steve Wynn, Cruz’s camp was stunned. Wynn, standing alongside fellow casino mogul Phil Ruffin, beamed from the crowd.
.. In the space of a year, Wynn would become a member of the president’s cadre of informal advisers, his hand-selected finance chair of the RNC, and as such, an indispensable fundraiser for the party.
.. Multiple Republican sources say Wynn’s retreat from the political scene will have a lasting and negative impact on the GOP’s fundraising prowess. “No small number of GOP lawmakers have stayed at Wynn Resorts in the last two years and relied on him for donations,” the Republican strategist Steve Schmidt said. “This could be devastating.”
.. not one seemed to think that the president would simply sever ties with Wynn.
.. The initial bout of friction between Trump and Wynn dates back to the 1990s, when the two engaged in a vicious legal battle over Wynn’s efforts to expand to Atlantic City that included allegations of fraud, money laundering, perjury, and even claims that an investigator working on behalf of Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts Inc. had become a mole for Wynn’s Mirage Resorts,
.. “They hate each other’s guts. It’s like poison,”
.. The president still nurses the wound of those years and the insults Wynn lobbed at him
.. “It was always just billionaire ego bullshit,” said one Trump campaign official who witnessed their exchanges. “Like, ‘Haha, my building is a couple feet taller than your building.’ That kind of thing.”
.. Yet far from keeping Wynn at a distance, Trump seemed insistent on tightening their relationship. “They became pretty close,”
.. the president took great pleasure in how their roles had reversed.
.. During the transition, Wynn bordered on “sycophantic” in his outreach .. particularly on the topic of China.
.. Wynn, who runs a massive casino operation in Macau, often urged Trump to reconsider his pledge to be “tough on China.”
.. Wynn then volunteered to arrange entertainment for Trump’s inauguration
.. Not even Wynn’s extensive rolodex of celebrities could help him nab the artists he wanted most, including Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, and Elton John. “As soon as he’d get close to bringing one on, word would leak out, and they’d immediately deny,” the source said. “Steve got very frustrated. He was clearly upset.”
.. it raised a record-breaking $107 million in the first three quarters of 2017
.. “He’s been a bigger success as a fundraiser than people thought he would be,
.. Wynn spoke with no notes, “as he’s mostly blind.” (Wynn suffers from a degenerative eye disease.)
.. The Wall Street Journal reported that Wynn hand-delivered a letter from the Chinese government urging the return of Miles Kwok, the Chinese businessman who fled the country, seeking asylum in the U.S.
.. But one source directly familiar with the matter remembered notably how Wynn was able “to work Trump up into a tizzy” over the situation, playing into the president’s well-known desire “to get the bad guys out” of the country.
.. “The president will want to keep Steve around him. He likes him—he’s gonna be last to throw a rock at a buddy of his.” Which means that Wynn’s access to Trump could very well continue unfettered—in the shadows, off the schedule, as it largely has been until now.