In MAGA world, Karoline Leavitt is a rising star. A former Trump White House staffer, she won national notice last year when, at just 25 years of age, she captured the GOP nomination for a New Hampshire congressional seat. In April, she was hired as a spokesperson by Trump’s super-PAC. But earlier this year, her focus seemed to be elsewhere. She published a series of op-eds heaping praise on Guo Wengui, an exiled Chinese mogul and ally of Steve Bannon who has styled himself a leading critic of the Chinese Communist Party. Guo, who also goes by Miles Guo, has since been arrested and indicted in a massive fraud case.
Leavitt isn’t alone. In recent months, a host of right-wing news outlets published enthusiastic defenses of Guo and attacks on his critics. Many of these opinion pieces closely echoed a set of talking points circulated among Guo’s fanatical supporters. Often, the writers used specific words or phrasing that the appear to have been lifted directly from the prewritten talking points. Guo’s backers, it seems, arranged for a number of conservative writers to use their platforms to repeat prefabricated arguments defending Guo’s conduct.
The op-eds were highly specific. In the far-right Epoch Times—as well as on a conservative site called Headline USA—Leavitt penned attacks on people involved in a 2017 lobbying scheme to force Guo’s extradition to China, where he faces fraud and rape charges. (Guo denies those allegations.) For Headline USA, Leavitt also wrote about a 2017 hack of computers at a law firm that was representing Guo in an asylum bid. She echoed a claim Guo made in a lawsuit against the firm, calling the obscure, six-year-old incident “a disturbing reminder of the lengths to which authoritarian regimes will go to silence dissent and suppress free speech.”
These were not random choices. Leavitt’s articles about Guo appear to have been researched and suggested to her by Guo supporters. According to a report published in May by journalist Walker Bragman in OptOut, an independent media outlet, Guo backers provided “prompts as well as pre-prepared drafts” to several far-right authors who agreed to publish the material—which they were free to edit—under their own names. According to Bragman’s report, those authors included Leavitt; Gavin Wax, who heads the New York Young Republicans Club; Matt Palumbo, who works for the Dan Bongino Show and writes for various right-leaning publications; and Natalie Winters, a co-host on Steve Bannon’s streaming show, War Room. Most of the op-eds ran prior to March 15, when Guo was indicted for allegedly defrauding his fans with phony investment schemes.
Mother Jones largely confirmed Bragman’s report, which cites a source involved in the effort and communications related to placing the op-eds. Some of the writers, including Leavitt, Wax, and Palumbo, published pro-Guo articles that hewed closely to a document featuring suggested topics and talking points prepared in advance by Guo supporters.
For example, this document—which I obtained—calls for an article with the proposed headline: “Professional Communist Moneyman: How Chinese Billionaires Are Bankrolling the CCP’s Foreign Expansion.”
“This article should focus on three people: Bruno Wu, Shan Weijian, and Jho Low,” that prompt says. “These three CCP billionaires, or white gloves, are the primary source of illegitimate funding for the CCP’s unrestricted warfare abroad, including the CCP’s #1 priority goal of removing Miles.”
On March 2, Leavitt published a story about this very topic in the conservative outlet Townhall, under the headline, “The American Denominator in CCP’s Global Dominance: Communist Moneyman and American Traitors.”
“There are many white gloves,” Leavitt’s column said, “but three individuals Bruno Wu, Shan Weijian, and Jho Low are the primary source of illegitimate funding for the CCP’s unrestricted warfare abroad, including the CCP’s number one priority goal of removing a key Chinese freedom fighter, Miles Guo.”
Wu is a Chinese businessman who has sued Guo for defamation. Shan is the CEO of a hedge fund that won a lawsuit against Guo in 2021. Both deny assisting the Chinese government, and no public evidence contradicts those denials. Low is a Malaysian businessman who has been indicted in the United States for, among other things, using funds stolen from the Malaysian state to finance a lobbying effort to have Guo extradited to China. He is currently a fugitive and is believed to be living in China. Representatives for Wu, Shan, and Low did not comment for this story.
Reached by phone, Leavitt claimed to have written her articles herself. When asked if Guo or his associates had paid her to byline the pieces echoing their claims, she did not answer directly. “I’m not going to comment to you about my clients or business relationships,” she said. She did not respond to follow-up questions noting the similarities between her articles and the prompts prepared by Guo supporters.
Townhall did not respond to my questions about Leavitt’s work, but it took down the “white gloves” article, along with another of Leavitt’s pro-Guo pieces, from its website after I reached out. Both stories now feature an editor’s note that says: “This column was removed for violating Townhall’s commentary submission guidelines.”
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The Guo supporters’ list of article prompts and talking points includes a story with the proposed headline: “Exposed: DOJ-Employed Attorney Secretly Met with Chinese Ambassador to sell out America.” On February 17, Wax bylined a Newsmax op-ed headlined: “DOJ-Employed Attorney Secretly Met with Chinese Ambassador.”
Wax—who previously worked for Gettr, a social media company with deep ties to Guo—did not respond to requests for comment. But Wax, a prolific tweeter, recently made a statement that fell short of a denial when a critic suggested Wax’s effort to defend Guo “in print” was related to his Gettr compensation.
“I was happy to write a few articles on the CCP,” Wax tweeted.
Guo’s actual record as a CCP foe is questionable. He made a fortune in Chinese real estate through apparent Chinese state corruption. There is no evidence he was a CCP critic prior to fleeing China in the wake of charges against his political patron, a top security official there. After settling in the US in 2015, where he has unsuccessfully sought political asylum, Guo set about denouncing corruption among some CCP leaders, though his claims were unconfirmed.
In the US, Guo has often clashed with more established Chinese dissidents, repeatedly dispatching followers to protest outside the homes of his perceived foes. Multiple lawsuits have cited such harassment of prominent CCP critics, along with alleged continued ties between Guo and Chinese intelligence, to assert that Guo himself is a CCP agent—a charge he denies. In a 2021 decision in a lawsuit involving Guo, a federal judge wrote: “The evidence at trial does not permit the court to decide whether Guo is, in fact, a dissident or a double agent.”
The recent op-eds by far-right figures appear to be part of a larger, long-standing effort by Guo and his followers to cultivate support among conservatives and Trump supporters. Bill Gertz, a China hawk and conservative media fixture, has written favorably about Guo for the Washington Free Beacon, calling him a “leading Chinese dissident” in 2017. But Gertz revealed in a 2019 deposition that a Guo associate, William Je, had loaned Gertz $100,000. (Je was indicted for fraud along with Guo in March. He has denied the allegations.) The Free Beacon fired Gertz in 2019 for entering into “a previously undisclosed financial transaction with an individual or an affiliate of that individual whom Mr. Gertz had covered in some of his reporting.”
By then, Gertz had introduced Guo to various right-wing Republicans, among them Bannon. Guo paid Bannon lavishly as a consultant for media companies Guo launched. Guo also allowed Bannon to use a private plane and a $30 million yacht, on which Bannon was arrested in 2020. Bannon helped Guo set up nonprofits that underwrite the New Federal State China, a supposed government-in-waiting for China that the men launched together in 2020.
Guo’s nonprofits arranged to pay Trump-linked figures like Rudy Giuliani and Michael Flynn large sums for speeches at a New Federal State event. As I reported last year, Guo used a company he controlled to spend more than $400,000 on the November 2020 “Million MAGA March,” which sought to overturn the presidential election. He also secretly funneled $100,000 to an organization suing to reverse Trump’s loss in Georgia.
Gettr, a right-leaning social media app over which Guo has exercised control, paid Jason Miller, now a top adviser to Trump’s 2024 campaign, $1 million a year to act as CEO. Gettr has paid $50,000 a month to War Room. Gettr also paid right-wing commentators—including Charlie Kirk, Dinesh D’Souza, Jack Posobiec and Andy Ngo—to use the platform, the Washington Post reported.
The pro-Guo op-eds published by far-right influencers appeared around the same time that Guo’s followers in the New Federal State of China were holding protests against lawyers and litigants in court cases involving Guo. Guo’s backers targeted Shan, the CEO of the hedge fund, Pacific Alliance, that had successfully sued him. They also harassed lawyers adversarial to Guo in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding he initiated after losing the Pacific Alliance case.
The protesters demonstrated outside their targets’ offices and houses. They also doxxed and picketed the homes and workplaces of family members and children of some of their targets, among them a third grade teacher and a graduate student.
The articles attacked some of the same people targeted in these protests, as well as other players in the legal actions against Guo.
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In February, Palumbo published an article on the Gateway Pundit site arguing that Barry Ostrager, the New York judge who ruled against Guo in the Pacific Alliance suit, should have recused himself because he previously worked for a firm, Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett, that has business in China. That line of reasoning echoed one of the prompts included on the list I reviewed. The prompt also suggested that the story assert that Ostrager’s summary judgement against Guo served to “deprive the defendant of the right to jury or appeal” and that a fine Ostrager leveled against Guo for contempt of court was intended to “force…Miles to file for Chapter 11.” Palumbo wrote: “The purpose of the judgment was simple: so that Ostrager could deprive Miles Guo of the right to go to trial, and thus force him into bankruptcy.”
This allegation is baseless. There is no evidence that Ostrager knew that Guo, a purported billionaire, would claim that he could not afford to pay the judgment in the case. Ostrager declined to comment. Palumbo did not respond to an inquiry.
Newsmax, Gateway Pundit, and Headline USA did not respond to inquires. Asked about the op-ed it ran under Leavitt’s byline, Epoch Times said: “We are not aware of this external author, from whom we have published only one opinion article, having not written the article herself or having been paid for it.”
Another writer helping spread highly specific pro-Guo arguments is Winters. On February 28, she bylined an article that repeated claims by Guo backers that they had been harassed by a Chinese drone while on the University of Maryland’s Baltimore campus to protest Shan’s daughter, a student there. Winters’ piece included zero evidence that the drone the protesters claimed flew close to them had been deployed by the CCP.
Winters has also bylined articles personally attacking reporters who have written critically about Guo, including me. In January, Winters authored an article that falsely suggested a series of exclusive articles I published about Guo and Bannon were the result of the CCP funding Mother Jones.
Winters, who identifies herself as a “investigative journalist,” did not seek comment from me or anyone at Mother Jones. I reached out to her for this story. She did not respond to my questions about Gettr’s monthly payments to War Room or about her articles supporting Guo.
Winters’ articles did not appear to match any of the specific prompts that I reviewed, but Bragman reported that she was among the writers Guo’s supporters worked with to advance their talking points. According to Bragman’s story, Winters’ article about the drone circulated among Guo supporters in draft form prior to its publication.
Last month, the New Federal State of China held its third anniversary party in a mansion in Mahwah, NJ. Speakers included Bannon, fabulist congressman George Santos, Palumbo, and Winters, who stated that the New Federal State members in attendance might know of her reporting on CCP infiltration of US institutions.
“Really I’ve only scratched the surface,” she told the audience. “And a lot of what I know and what I’ve been so fortunate to see first hand has only been because of the work that your wonderful movement has done. So it’s always an honor to work with you guys.”