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Steve Bannon

Photo by Gage Skidmore/ CC BY-SA 2.0

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

A new investigation by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reveals a global network of harassment promulgated by various online media properties backed by former Trump adviser Steve Bannon and his billionaire benefactor Miles Guo.

The New York Times and other outlets have reported previously on the extensive connections between Bannon and Guo, who regularly appears on Bannon's podcast War Room: Pandemic. Notably, Bannon was recently arrested by federal agents aboard Guo's yacht, and he's been charged by the Southern District of New York for defrauding donors to a private charity purportedly building a wall along the southern border.

Now, two former members of Guo's so-called "whistleblowers' movement" are speaking out against the pair. John Pan, "who was amongst Mr Guo's inner circle until December 2019" and has been subjected to threats and harassment after he left the movement, says their disinformation campaign is "trying to interrupt the United State[s'] elections" by spreading salacious and unverified allegations against Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

As Bannon's scheme with Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani to smear the Biden family has fallen apart, its allegations have appeared on Guo's GTV website. According to a report by The New York Times, "Mr. Giuliani did not respond to questions about the origins of the materials featured by the Guo-linked outlets," though "Mr. Bannon acknowledged that he pushes content to GTV, which also carries his podcast."

From ABC's investigation:

Together with Steve Bannon, Mr Guo launched an aggressive anti-Chinese Communist Party (CCP) movement called the New Federal State of China in June this year, with branches in countries like the US, Canada, Taiwan, Japan, New Zealand and Australia.
Through a plethora of media channels, spot rallies, flyer and email spam campaigns, the movement has been instrumental in pushing out Mr Guo's conspiracy theories and misinformation.

They called it "the whistleblowers' movement", a media campaign with an aim to "take down the CCP" by any means necessary.
Dr Anne Kruger, the director of Asia Pacific at the fact check organisation FirstDraft, studied the group's operations and said followers flood the internet with questionable material.
"Their main tactic is really to try to appeal to people that might have a gripe against the Chinese Communist Party and to push conspiracy theories," Dr Kruger said[.]

Foreign Policy magazine has also reported on this network of harassment and threats directed by Guo to keep his critics silent. Some are now speaking out, including Pan, a Brisbane, Australia-based human rights advocate who was attracted to Guo's criticisms of the repressive Chinese government. When he had a change of heart after learning of Guo's deceptive practices, ABC reports that Pan became a target:

After witnessing the movement's dangerous tactics, Mr Pan became uncomfortable with its direction.
In late 2019, he decided to branch out and create his own charity to fight for human rights in Hong Kong and Xinjiang province.
A few days after having a conversation about it with Mr Guo, Mr Guo told his 1.4 million followers in his online broadcasts that Mr Pan was a "CCP spy", and urged them to attack him.
"He started calling me a fraud and a scam. A Chinese government spy. I should deserve to die," Mr Pan said.
"I can't sleep. I'm quite shocked. I had a panic attack."
On October 8 this year, a group of the online harassers picketed outside his house in Brisbane, waving flags and banners of the New Federal State of China and chanting slogans: "Kick the CCP agent out of Australia."

Similar to Guo's intimidation tactics, his partner Steve Bannon often accuses liberals and other critics of being agents of the Chinese government, witting or unwitting. On the October 30, 2020, edition of War Room: Pandemic, he said Joe McCarthy was "right," referring to Senator Joe McCarthy's bogus 1950s crusade against "subversive communist influence" in major America institutions. McCarthy's baseless charges were condemned as "a fraud and a hoax" by a U.S. Senate special committee.

From the October 30, 2020, edition of War Room: Pandemic

According to the ABC, Guo touts a "hit list" of other Chinese dissidents that are critical of his tactics.Others like John Pan have been subjected to terroristic threats and violence.

Mr Pan's name is on a Guo hit list with about 10 other Chinese dissidents around the world.
Mr Guo recently launched on his livestream an "eliminate the traitors campaign", calling on his supporters to harm those on the list.
One of the dissidents has already been beaten up on the streets of LA.
Another, Texas-based pastor and human rights activist Bob Fu, told the ABC that he's had the bomb squad in Midland Texas searching his house for hidden explosives.
Mr Guo has made at least three livestream videos encouraging his followers to "eliminate Pastor Fu".

Fu runs a charity aiding Christians facing religious persecution in China. According to the ABC report, a police "riot squad escorted Mr Fu's daughter from school" and his family is "still residing in an undisclosed location" under protective custody due to threats by Guo's followers.


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Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

Tina Peters

YouTube Screenshot

A right-wing conspiracy theorist who was indicted in March on criminal charges of tampering with voting machines to try to prove former President Donald Trump's lies of a stolen 2020 presidential election on Tuesday lost the Republican primary to run for secretary of state of Colorado, the person who oversees its elections.

With 95 percent of the vote counted, Tina Peters, the clerk and recorder of Mesa County, Colorado, was in third place, trailing the winner, fellow Republican Pam Anderson, 43.2 percent to 28.3 percent.

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