Scandal at Trump-backer Epoch Times: Biden and U.S. Establishment Getting Desperate Over Election?

Digging up dirt using a money-laundering scandal makes perfect sense. Muzzling a pro-Trump media outlet is a bonus too.

With the U.S. presidential election only four months away, the incumbent Joe Biden White House and the Democrat Party are getting desperate. They can’t seem to close the gap in poll numbers showing Republican rival Donald Trump having a strong chance of regaining the presidency.

Such is the political crisis in the United States from voter indifference to both candidates that anything could happen. With Trump threatening a “bloodbath” if he loses in November, the prospect of national chaos either way is looming.

An increasingly frail Biden is calling on Hollywood A-listers to boost his flagging campaign. A recent $30 million fundraiser by Tinseltown big names including Julia Roberts and George Clooney warned of the “scariest” outcome if Trump were returned to the White House.

What’s of concern to the political and media establishment – which largely votes Democrat – is that Trump’s popularity seems immune to damage from scandal and legal prosecutions for financial corruption. His fundraising is also set to grow more robustly after the Republican Congressional leaders put aside any misgivings to bless his campaign.

The high stakes may explain the “big news” crackdown on alleged corruption by the chief financial executive at the conservative news outlet, The Epoch Times.

Its Chief Financial Officer Weidong “Bill” Guan is in court this week facing federal charges for money laundering and bank fraud to the tune of $67 million. Guan denies the charges but if convicted he is facing a 20-30 year stretch in jail.

The Epoch Times is a major supporter of “The Donald”. The weekly newspaper is published in 35 countries and 22 languages. It was founded 25 years ago and is affiliated with the Falun Gong movement, a secretive quasi-Buddhist religion that claims to have millions of followers in the U.S. and worldwide. The spiritual leader is China-born multimillionaire Li Hongzhi who lives in exile. Falun Gong is banned in China by the Chinese government which accuses it of cult practices and extortion of followers.

Following the arrest of Bill Guan by U.S. authorities earlier this month, the Falun Gong leader wrote two articles for Epoch Times, denouncing shady practices and partisan politics. The newspaper has denied any wrongdoing and has suspended its chief financial officer pending the outcome of the fraud trial.

The New York-based Epoch Times has been a useful proxy for U.S. governments since its foundation in 2000 following the exile of Li Hongzhi from China to the United States where “he found his American Dream”, according to the Wall Street Journal. Apart from its zany content which borders on superstition and sensationalism, the upside for the U.S. establishment is the publication is vehemently hostile towards the People’s Republic of China in its editorial line. It reflects the “anti-communist” views of the Falun Gong leader and in that way can be seen as a useful propaganda tool for Washington to drum up “anti-China” sentiments.

However, during the last Trump administration, The Epoch Times adopted a stridently pro-Trump line. It ran stories popular among the MAGA movement such as the Covid-19 virus being a plot by the Chinese Communist Party to destroy the United States, as well as QAnon conspiracy claims about Satanic corruption among the U.S. establishment.

When Trump lost in 2020 to Biden, the paper promoted the false claims that the election was “stolen” by Democrat-orchestrated voter fraud. Many Republican voters still believe that their man was cheated out of a second consecutive term by the deep state.

Nailing its editorial colors to the Trump electoral mast was a profitable move for The Epoch Times. Under the stewardship of Bill Guan – a protégé of Falun Gong guru Li Hongzhi – the media group’s revenues skyrocketed from $4 million a year to over $120 million. The Department of Justice indictment alleges that Guan raked in the proceeds through fundraising online scams using cryptocurrency and personal identity theft.

The association of Trump’s campaign with an alleged massive fraud operation run by a media group that can be easily painted as a weird cultist whack job seems to be the latest effort by the Democrat-supporting political establishment to tip the scales in favor of Biden.

There has been widespread American corporate media coverage of the fraud scandal implicating The Epoch Times and its Falun Gong network. The Washington Post, New York Times, CNN, and CNBC, among others, have been having a field day on the subject.

It appears odd that the U.S. establishment, which has indulged the Falun Gong movement and its anti-China news outlet for so many years, should abruptly ramp up negative coverage.

But bear in mind that Biden’s campaign is in deep trouble. His administration’s embroilment in the Gaza genocide perpetrated by the Israeli regime has earned bitter recrimination from Democrat voters and students who would have normally voted for Biden.

Another worry for the Democrat Party is Biden’s increasingly obvious physical and mental frailty. Even pro-Democrat media are openly commenting on how Biden’s mental health is failing as he stumbles from one public gaff or misstep to another. There is a sense of dread that when Trump and Biden go head to head in a live TV debate later this month, the incumbent president will be made look decrepit and unfit for office.

The Democrat campaign is amplifying attention on Trump’s conviction for fraud over hush payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels and his other forthcoming court trial over abuse of classified documents. It’s also talking up Trump’s dodgy financial accounts and business dealings as a former real estate magnate.

The scandal at The Epoch Times and allegations of defrauding millions of Americans through money laundering comes at a time when the Biden campaign needs all the help it can get to pile the dirt on Trump.

A legal crackdown on the newspaper’s financial dealings seems long overdue. Banks and tax authorities were flagging suspicious accounts from at least 2021, according to reports. Former employers of The Epoch Times have also commented publicly on the surprising delay in investigating the media outlet and its fundraising operations.

It seems strange that federal indictments are being brought now with much-hyped media coverage if the case were assessed merely on legal concerns about finances.

If the intensity of politics is factored though and the U.S. establishment’s fears that Trump might just pull off a spectacular reelection – with all the chaos that such a return to the White House will elicit – then digging up dirt using a money-laundering scandal makes perfect sense. Muzzling a pro-Trump media outlet is a bonus too.

• First published in Strategic Culture Foundation

Finian Cunningham is a former editor and writer for major news media organizations. He has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages Read other articles by Finian.