Despite launching a re-election bid shortly after his inauguration, former President Trump’s poll numbers were on a downward trajectory in the last weeks of the 2020 presidential election for many reasons. Chief among them was his abject mishandling of the coronavirus.
Desperate to turn the tides in his favor, Trump and his allies orchestrated an “October surprise” — a news piece that breaks before November polls to sink an opponent. This surprise was a coordinated smear campaign targeted not at Joe Biden but his son, Hunter. Trump and his allies sought to draw negative media attention to a trove of files on a laptop purportedly abandoned by Hunter Biden.
Three people heralded the effort to disseminate compromising emails, pictures, and videos from the laptop, as well as shocking allegations of child porn possession on Hunter Biden’s part: Rudy Giuliani, then-personal lawyer of former President Trump; Steve Bannon, who had been charged with fraud, was later pardoned by Trump, and more recently indicted for contempt of Congress; and Guo Wengui, an exiled Chinese businessman.
Mother Jones obtained scores of WhatsApp communications that paint a clearer picture of Guo’s role in the disinformation campaign. A small network of media outlets Guo controlled was instrumental in promoting unsubstantiated allegations against Hunter Biden.
Guo's Ties To Bannon
Guo Wengui, a former billionaire real estate tycoon, fled China for the United States in 2014 to escape charges of fraud and corruption tabled against him. Upon his arrival, Guo joined Mar-a-Lago and reinvented himself as an indefatigable critic of the Chinese Communist Party. That’s where he met Steve Bannon, who he hired as a consultant for a million dollars in 2018.
According to Mother Jones, Bannon helped Guo set up a small empire of non-profit organizations and media companies, which includes two media websites: GTV, a Chinese-language streaming website Guo admitted to raising funds for, and GNews.
The Washington Post reported that the network also contained thousands of social media accounts used to publicize false information in a coordinated fashion.
At first, most publications, even those friendly to Trump, steered clear of reporting on the laptop because they could not immediately verify critical elements of the story.
This is where Guo came in: He oversaw a WhatsApp-based effort to spread personal images and videos of Hunter Biden gotten from the abandoned laptop, reports Mother Jones.
“We have to express…The Chinese Communist Party used these to threaten Hunter and [Joe] Biden,” said Guo to his supporters in a WhatsApp message on October 24, 2020.
That was one in a string of messages Guo sent, instructing his supporters to falsely claim that the sensitive material they were spreading had come from the Chinese government, which supposedly had reams of damning material on the Bidens.
Yet the files hadn’t originated from China; they had come from Rudy Giuliani, according to three sources with knowledge of the efforts, reports Mother Jones.
Sources also name Bannon as a participant in discussions centered on spreading other materials from the laptop. In a September 28, 2020 interview for Dutch TV, Bannon claimed he was in possession of “Hunter Biden’s hard drive.”
Guo, Bannon, Gulliani, and a few others named by Mother Jones denied requests to comment. The full report is available here.