Mother Jones illustration; Don Emmert/AFP/Getty; Alex Wong/Getty
Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.Game recognizes game. And the far right scene in New York City is kind of a small world. So it’s weird, but not particularly surprising, that just days before being indicted on federal fraud charges, fabulist Congressman George Santos appeared on a livestream produced by devotees of Guo Wengui—an exiled Chinese mogul who allegedly orchestrated of a massive international fraud and is also a prodigious purveyor of misinformation.
Guo, who also uses the name Miles Guo, is a longtime patron and professional partner of Steve Bannon. And Bannon’s allies in places like the fanatical New York Young Republicans Club are also big Santos backers. These ties likely explain how Santos showed up Friday at a cavernous, sparsely furnished Mahwah, NJ, mansion to tacitly back Guo supporters’ kooky conspiracy theory that their leader has been framed by the FBI at the behest of the Chinese Communist Party. The interview was broadcast on a program that Guo followers regularly share on Gettr, a right-leaning social media app over which, as Mother Jones has reported, Guo has exercised control.
Guo made a fortune in Chinese real estate before fleeing that country in 2014 ahead of criminal charges there. In the US, he reinvented himself as a supposed Chinese dissident. Working with Bannon, Guo won followers in the international Chinese diaspora with aggressive attacks on China’s rulers, while also spreading bizarre conspiracy theories about topics like the 2020 election and Covid. In 2021, for instance, he said that China, which he has suggested controls pharmaceutical companies, was using Covid vaccines to kill Jews, because, Guo explained, “the world internet is overwhelmingly in Jewish hands.” Guo also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to support Donald Trump’s efforts to remain in power.
Like Guo, Santos is an alleged fraudster and a definite liar. On Wednesday, federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York unsealed a 13-count indictment for wired fraud, money laundering, campaign finance violations, and false statements. And during his campaign, Santos lied about graduating from college, working for Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, owning various real estate assets, having been a star college volleyball player, being the son of a 9/11 victim, and being the grandson of Jews who escaped the Holocaust.
“You have an ally,” Rep. George Santos told supporters of Guo Wengui during a recent livestream on Gettr. Like Guo, Santos is now facing federal fraud charges.
NFSC Speaks; GettrEarlier this year, prosecutors charged Guo with using his base of Chinese emigre followers to drum up investments for a series of largely fraudulent ventures, including a Chinese language news channel/streaming site and mostly fake crypto currency, then stealing most of the funds. He allegedly used the money to pay for luxury items, including a Ferrari, two $36,000 mattresses, upkeep on a $30 million yacht, and the $26.5 million, 50,000-square-foot Gilded Age mansion where Santos was interviewed for Friday’s broadcast. Guo supporters told the congressman that the mansion is now “the base” of the New Federal State of China, a group Guo and Bannon launched in 2020, which claims—not persuasively—to act as government-in-waiting, ready to take over China when the CCP falls.
Guo’s supporters, including Bannon, have suggested without evidence that the feds concocted the case against Guo in an effort to stop him from criticizing China. Guo fans have relentlessly pitched this narrative, even picketing Congress, hoping that Republicans will list Guo, along with Donald Trump, as a victim of the Deep State. Not even Rep. Jim Jordan—the Ohio right-winger leading the House’s “Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government”—has taken that bait, at least so far.
But Santos is all in. “I have established after very deep thought and very deep soul searching and understanding of the issue, [that] I will not stop until Miles Guo is free and given an opportunity to a trial,” he announced in the interview, prompting cries of delight from his audience (Guo has so far been denied bail, after a judge deemed him a flight risk, but he is not actually being denied a trial.) The congressman cast this position as bold. “Many may try to silence us,” he said. “Many may come after us. But I will not stop this fight.”
Santos may well be hoping that by backing Guo’s claims that Guo is being unfairly prosecuted, he’ll encourage Guo’s fanatical supporters to make the same claim about him. And indeed, Guo fans took up Santos’ cause after his indictment.
What do Bannon, Navarro, Miles Guo, Trump, and Santos share in common? They made themselves the enemy of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) by fighting for the people. On Friday May 5th, Congressman Santos publicly supported the New Federal State of China & Miles Guo. On Tuesday,… pic.twitter.com/fUfIYTme0L
— Ava (@S7gril) May 9, 2023
“You have an ally,” Santos declared. “I give you my word. I am your ally. I will not stop working. This is not a distraction. This is a not side project. This is a mission.”
Santos wasn’t too specific about about how he will pursue that mission. So far it mostly entails posting. On Tuesday, for instance, he retweeted a claim that “Anthony Fauci belongs in prison, not the CCP’s No. 1 enemy Miles Guo.” (This falls short of Bannon’s one-time call for Fauci’s beheading.)
The time to act is NOW!
I won’t stop until we end the CCP influence in the United Stated.
For starters we need to #freeMilesGuo and give him his day in court, only then will we know how much of our country is compromised by the #CCP.
— George Santos (@Santos4Congress) May 9, 2023
Hours after Guo’s arrest on March 15, a fire broke out in his Upper East Side penthouse, even as FBI agents were still searching it. The cause remains unclear. The New York Post reported that investigators were looking into whether the fire was sparked “remotely.” And I’ve pointed out that it came after Guo, maybe coincidently, encouraged backers to launch a “flame revolution” against the CCP by starting actual fires.
Guo supporters, however, contend that the FBI deliberately started the blaze.
Santos seems to be entertaining that notion, telling Guo fans: “The fire is inexplicable…That just shows you that there is deep concerns within our justice system that need to be investigated immediately.”
Santos also urged Guo backers to go en masse to Congress to press for Guo’s release. “Make it a huge day of action. Have the entire NFSC come down,” he said. “Hundreds of you. Pair up in teams. And you go into the office. Educate Congress.”
“Make yourselves heard,” he said. “Make them listen.”
During the interview, Santos was addressing a small group of Guo backers, among them a few who are apparently residents of his Long Island district. Those include his interviewer, Qidong Xia, the owner of a Great-Neck-based company, Mountains of Spices, that is a named defendant in an SEC civil complaint that was filed in March alongside a DOJ indictment against Guo and others. The SEC said the company played a central role in Guo’s fraud, helping him sell unregistered securities to his fans. Qidong, who is not himself charged, declined to comment. Mountains of Spices has not been charged criminally.
Santos capped his performance Friday by reminding those constituents that he works for them. This riff seemed to channel Oprah Winfrey’s famed “You get a car” episode, along with Tom Wambsgans’ shareholder address in a recent Succession episode. “You are an ATN citizen,” Tom lamely declares, pointing at crowd members. “And you are an ATN citizen. And I am an ATN citizen.”
“You’re my boss,” Santos said, pointing at Guo fans. “You’re my boss. You’re my boss. That’s how this works.”