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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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Eric Holder

The failure of major federal voting rights legislation in the Senate has left civil rights advocates saying they are determined to keep fighting—including by suing in battleground states. But the little bipartisan consensus that exists on election reform would, at best, lead to much narrower legislation that is unlikely to address state-level GOP efforts now targeting Democratic blocs.

“This is the loss of a battle, but it is not necessarily the loss of a war, and this war will go on,” Eric Holder, the former U.S. attorney general and Democrat, told MSNBC, saying that he and the Democratic Party will be suing in states where state constitutions protect voting rights. “This fight for voting rights and voter protection and for our democracy will continue.”

“The stakes are too important to give up now,” said Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which for years has operated an Election Day hotline to help people vote. “Our country cannot claim to be free while allowing states to legislate away that freedom at will.”

In recent weeks, as it became clear that the Senate was not going to change its rules to allow the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to pass with a simple majority, there have been efforts by some lawmakers, election policy experts, and civil rights advocates to identify what election reforms could pass the Senate.

“There are several areas… where I think there could be bipartisan consensus,” said David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, in a briefing on January 20. “These areas are all around those guardrails of democracy. They are all about ensuring that however the voters speak that their voice is heard… and cannot be subverted by anyone in the post-election process.”

Becker cited updating the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which addressed the process where state-based slates of presidential electors are accepted by Congress. (In recent weeks, new evidence has surfaced showing that Donald Trump’s supporters tried to present Congress with forged certificates as part of an effort to disrupt ratifying the results on January 6, 2021.) Updating that law could also include clarifying which state officials have final authority in elections and setting out clear timetables for challenging election results in federal court after Election Day.

Five centrist Washington-based think tanks issued a report on January 20, Prioritizing Achievable Federal Election Reform, which suggested federal legislation could codify practices now used by nearly three-quarters of the states. Those include requiring voters to present ID, offering at least a week of early voting, allowing all voters to request a mailed-out ballot, and allowing states to start processing returned absentee ballots a week before Election Day.

But the report, which heavily drew on a task force of 29 state and local election officials from 20 states convened by Washington’s Bipartisan Policy Center, was notable in what it did not include, such as restoring the major enforcement section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was removed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. It did not mention the Electoral Count Act nor growing threats to election officials from Trump supporters.

“This won’t satisfy all supporters of the Freedom to Vote Act, but this is a plausible & serious package of reforms to make elections more accessible and secure that could attract bipartisan support,” tweeted Charles Stewart III, a political scientist and director of the MIT Election Data and Science Lab. “A good starting point.”

The reason the centrist recommendations won’t satisfy civil rights advocates is that many of the most troubling developments since the 2020 election would likely remain.

Targeting Battleground States

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Former president Donald Trump

By Rami Ayyub and Alexandra Ulmer

(Reuters) -The prosecutor for Georgia's biggest county on Thursday requested a special grand jury with subpoena power to aid her investigation into then-President Donald Trump's efforts to influence the U.S. state's 2020 election results.

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