After Rudy Giuliani’s latest meltdown – in which his hair dye dripped down his face as he attempted to advance the claim of election fraud – the chances of Donald Trump’s efforts to contest the 2020 election have become slimmer and slimmer.
Plan A, to take any legal step possible to challenge the results, seems to have failed. Plan B, though, is already being rolled out: to continue with the lie that the election results have been rigged by Democrats, and then to act as if the new Biden administration is illegitimate. Trump furthermore may encourage street protests among his supporters and then declare emergency measures when violence escalates.
Current polls suggest that about half of all Republicans believe, or pretend to believe, in the election fraud story. Given time and means, this number could rise. Considering that, for example, 30% of Americans buy into the conspiracy promoted by Steve Bannon & Co. that COVID-19 was bio-engineered, one can get an idea of the dangerous dimension the populist assault on truth and facts has taken.
As the amount of dirt revealed about Trump and his entourage gets more voluminous by the day, this series of articles intends to shed light on some of the most nefarious operations of Trump’s support structure, particularly around his “former” chief adviser Steve Bannon: their ties to election rigging, conspiracy theories, militias, and how, in the interest of big business, in a breathtaking tempo, managed to push a super nation to the brink of a civil war.
Many may have thought that Bannon’s and Trump’s relationship was ended with the publication of Fire and Fury in 2018, when Bannon was thrown out of the White House after having revealed embarrassing details about the Trump family to author Michael Wolff. But the grudges were set aside as the two realized that their empires are mutually dependent. Bannon has become one of Trump’s most valuable assets in his war for the minds of the American people.
Bannon advises Trump in the White House.
In the period after the publication of Fire and Fury, Bannon helped revive the Committee on the Present Danger, a Cold War relic promoting Sinophobia and that lobbies for a more confrontational policy directed against China. [The Committee on the Present Danger was first established in 1950 as a Cold War lobby organization that promoted alarmist reports about Russia; it disappeared but was re-established in the 1970s, again in 2004 and, most recently, in 2019. It was this latest iteration that “Bannon helped found,” along with Frank Gaffney, a former aide to hawkish Senator Henry Scoop“ Jackson and notorious Islamophobe, and former CIA Director James Woolsey, among others.]
Bannon speaks before the Committee on the Present Danger with Frank Gaffney on his left.
Bannon has also embarked on a project to build up a far-right International together with a handful of Brexit scammers and has attempted to launch a fascist cadre school for “Gladiators” in an Italian monastery together with reactionary forces in the Catholic Church, who want to sack Pope Francis and throw Europe back to the Middle Ages.
The latter plan is on hold for the time being – particularly since Bannon is currently not allowed to leave the country after he was detained in August while on the luxury yacht of his Chinese billionaire sponsor Guo Wengui, and charged with fraud relating to the We Build The Wall campaign.
But thanks to a bail arrangement, Bannon immediately returned to where he left off: overseeing key operations supporting Trump’s reelection. Already in October 2019, Bannon had created a YouTube channel called the War Room, which by now has produced more than 500 episodes, where he regurgitates the many lies, conspiracies, and spins he helped forge: from the 2020 election being fraudulent to the COVID-19 virus having escaped from a Chinese military lab.
The Rise of Donald Trump
Donald Trump was groomed for high office by his close friend and former Nixon associate Roger Stone. A shameless self-promoter Trump won the 2016 Republican primaries by humiliating his challengers during the televised debates, while casting himself as a populist crusader and political outsider who would “drain the swamp” in Washington.
Dirty political trickster Roger Stone saw Trump as the heir to “Tricky Dick” Nixon years ago.
Trump’s ascendancy is best understood as a consequence of years of failed neoliberal economic policies and political corruption, combined with the decline of labor unions and the political left in the United States. Without any outlet to channel their frustration or an effective progressive movement, American voters became easy prey for a Trump-style demagogue.
Bannon’s importance along with figures like Roger Stone was to concoct various schemes and zany new ideas for manipulating voters into supporting a political candidate and party whose economic program favored the top one percent of the population.
Bannon became Trump’s last-minute campaign manager when it was clear that Senator Ted Cruz was out of the race, and reactionary kingmakers, such as Robert Mercer, switched to betting on another horse.
Mercer made his fortune as CEO of Renaissance Technologies, a hedge fund which pioneered the use of algorithms to model and trade on the financial markets. According to Renaissance whistleblower David Magerman, Mercer wants to use his money to “shrink [the] government to the size of a pinhead.”
It was $10 million of Mercer’s money that enabled Bannon to fund Breitbart News – a right-wing news site, set up with the express intention of being a Huffington Post for the right.
Robert and Rebekah Mercer in 2017. Robert Mercer, one of Trump's and Bannon’s money men, who wants to shrink the government to the “size of a pinhead.” [Source: CBC]
Bannon‘s career stages at the Pentagon, Goldman Sachs, and as “Tea Party Populist Guy” at Breitbart had taught him every dirty trick in the book necessary to win an election; and he had been set to the task by the Mercers.
It was the United States Supreme Court’s decision that year in Citizens United v. FEC which allowed unlimited political campaign financing by corporations, including nonprofit corporations, labor unions, and other associations, fueling the rise of Super PACs. Citizens United had been bankrolled to a large extend by the Koch brothers.
How close the orbits of Trump and Bannon had already been during Tea Party times can be deduced from the fact that Bannon’s managing editor, Wynton Hall, had asked for five months off to ghostwrite Trump’s 2011 policy book Time to Get Tough: Making America #1 Again.
Bossie’s initiative certainly paid off later, when he was made Trump’s deputy campaign manager, only interrupted by a short fallout when in May 2019 he was accused by the Internal Revenue Service of defrauding political donors by lining his own pockets. Bossie then returned as a strategic ally to help contest Trump’s impeachment.
Donald Trump and David Bossie in 2015.
But back to 2010, the year Citizens United won the case against the FEC, Bossie advised Trump on how to become president, and produced Bannon’s documentary Generation Zero.
It promoted the absurd narrative that the 2008 financial crisis was largely to be blamed on the baby boomers who, having turned their backs on the conservative values of their parents, had brought forth those spoiled, self-serving and corrupt elites that had cheated the people; in other words: a well-crafted canard diverting the public outrage toward the wrong causes (liberal upbringing), and rerouting its thrust behind conservative rallying points.
Film poster advertising Stephen K. Bannon's documentary about Sarah Palin, The Undefeated.
That Bannon actually could not care less about the toilers’ plight, or the millions who lost their homes, for that matter, and saw the financial crisis of 2008 as an opportunity, rather than a reason to be outraged, can be deduced from the fact that he wholeheartedly supported the opportunist Tea Party; and figures such as the right-wing shrew Sarah Palin, when producing her hagiographic portrait, The Undefeated, in 2011. To put the financial burden on the backs of the people in times of crisis, finance capital needs fascism, the most violent form of finance capital, and that’s the side Bannon has been fighting for, then and now.
Bannon’s narrative – that corrupt elites, to which he certainly belongs, had stolen from the people – is nothing but a faux anti-establishment discourse intended to focus the wrath of the people toward the elite political center in order for fascists to take over.
To that end, the Tea Party was the right platform: According to Bannon, it paved the way for what he calls the populist movement, a project to unite the various, often infighting, factions of the Right, with the help of smorgasbords such as Breitbart (initially a Tea Party blog before being bankrolled by the Mercers) as well as a set of insidious digital marketing strategies, and push them further to the right.
In Bannon’s words:
So we would have the Christian conservatives; we would have the libertarians, the Rand Paul guys; we would have the limited-government conservatives, the Ted Cruz guys; we would have the gay Republican, Lincoln club guys. The “alt-right” started as, before it got taken over by these kind of white nationalists, when we originally got involved with it, these were the guys that said: “Hey, all this conservatism is all—there’s no fight in it. We want an alternative that actually fights, right?” It was kind of these memes…
But it was not until Bannon’s involvement with the British “political consulting” (i.e. election rigging) firm Cambridge Analytica, that the “populist unity” could reach its tentacles into the darkest corners of the internet to deceive a lost soul.
According to the saga, a young data nerd named Christopher Wylie came up with the idea to use data harvested from Facebook for targeted (dark) ads, as well as the building of a political mass base.
Wylie later claimed that he was the engineer of “Steve Bannon’s psychological warfare mindfuck tool,” and by now it is clear that Cambridge Analytica played a pivotal role in Britain’s Leave campaign, that successfully lobbied for the UK exiting the EU, and later Trump’s election campaign.
Cambridge Analytica, a subsidiary of the private intelligence company and self-styled “global election management agency” SCL Group founded in 2013, had been supported by the Mercers with at least 15 million dollars, according to the New York Times.
SCL itself had received backing by the British Defense Ministry and the U.S. State Department, among others to manipulate elections in other countries using sophisticated psychological warfare tactics. Bannon also had at least a one-million dollar stake in the business, from which he had to divest in April 2017 when he became White House Chief strategist.
Strangely enough, Bannon’s obvious involvement in election rigging had no noteworthy legal consequences. Cambridge Analytica became Emerdata in August 2017, whose board included the Hong Kong businessman and Frontier Services Group officer Johnson Chun Shun Ko, linked to the founder of the private military company Blackwater, Erik Prince, and Cambridge Analytica investor Rebekah, and Jennifer, Mercer, both daughters of Robert Mercer.
But deploying military grade data science tools for engineering coups, is just another of the many boxes Trump’s mafia can check off from its dirty playbook. Another important tool set is the strategic promotion of conspiracy theories: starting with Pizzagate during the 2016 election cycle, which falsely claimed the leaked emails of Hillary Clinton's campaign manager John Podesta contained coded messages that connected several high-ranking Democrats with an alleged human trafficking and child sex ring.
Pizzagate had been spread by the don of American conspiracy theorists, Alex Jones, who just recently “occupied,” with some MAGA militias, the Atlanta capitol; and Michael Flynn, then on Donald Trump's transition team and Trump's designate for National Security Adviser, who posted several tweets alleging that Podesta drank human blood and other bodily fluids in Satanic rituals.
Alex Jones told protesters to “surround the White House and defend the president.” [Source: Forbes]
Pizzagate was followed up by QAnon, which went even further, portraying Trump as the only one who could save the world from a cabal of satanical elites (Democrats), who are kidnapping children to derive a rejuvenating substance from them, or alternatively sacrifice them to appease the devil.
If the story could not get more twisted, the primary enablers of the conspiracy theory are Ron Watkins, the former system administrator of 8kun, home of the QAnon conspiracy theories, and his dad Jim Watkins, an online porn entrepreneur since his army times in the 1990s.
Ron Watkins has just recently come into the spotlight when he was quoted as technical expert on a widely circulated broadcast by the Trump-mouthpiece One America News, that alleged voter fraud in favor of Biden through manipulation of the Dominion voter machines, which Trump promptly retweeted.
Tweet by Donald Trump on November 19, 2020, referencing an OAN video featuring Ron Watkins as "technical expert" in the manipulability of Dominion voting machines.
Unambiguous are the origins of the “Kungflu” trope, the conspiracy theory that the COVID-19 virus was bio-engineered in a Chinese military lab. None other than Bannon, through the Rule of Law Society/Foundation that he had co-founded with fugitive Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui, had promoted the shady paper of Dr. Li-Meng Yan, a Hong-Kong based virologist and fugitive turned “whistleblower,” who Bannon had recruited as a mouthpiece for his anti-Chinese platform.
Andrew Preston, Reader in Microbial Pathogenesis at the University of Bath, said that Yan's paper could not be given “any credibility” in its current form, and that its interpretations were “not supported by data” and language was “reminiscent of a conspiracy theory.”
Fake Chinese whistleblower Li Men-Yang interviewed by Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
Hong Kong University said back in July that Yan no longer worked there and had “never conducted research on human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus.”
There is a picture showing Bannon, Yan, Rudy Giuliani, as well as Wang Ding Gang in the same room. Wang had played a leading role in the spread of anti-Chinese conspiracies and anti-Biden material. His YouTube channel promoted a leaked video from Hunter Biden’s laptop purportedly showing Biden smoking crack and receiving sexual favors during a trip to China.
From left to right: Li-Meng Yan, Steve Bannon, Rudy Giuliani, Wang Ding Gang.
Presenting lies as “alternative facts” has detrimental side effects that can only be desirable to the originators: that is the erosion of the power of language itself, which the legal framework of democracy is built on. What follows when the power of law fails is violence, which brings us to the last (but not least) pillar of Trump’s fascist apparatus: militias. Proud Boys and Groypers, Oathkeepers, 3 Percenters, you name them, have lined up behind the MAGA man, and many others are ready to take up arms to fight for their super hero.
Proud Boys militia at a pro-Trump rally on December 13, 2020, in Washington D.C.
Although the dogs, who have received numerous signs of acknowledgment by the Trump cabal, have yet to be let loose, they are certainly waiting for the whistle call. Currently various militias are surrounding governmental buildings in several U.S. states, many following the rallying call of the Stop The Steal (STS) campaign, an initiative started by Trump’s old friend Roger Stone in 2016, which has since been repurposed twice, according to CNN.
Nick Fuentes, leader of a far-right troll army, the "Groyper" boys.
One of the biggest loudmouths supporting the STS charade is the “Zoomer Nazi” Nick Fuentes, leader of the far-right troll army “groyper boys.” Fuentes has ties to Patrick Casey and the American Identity Movement, as well as to white supremacist Richard Spencer. Ali Alexander, a Roger Stone and Alex Jones affiliate, covers the interface between Christian fundamentalists and STS militias.
When STS was revived in 2020 to contest the presidential elections, it started a massive influencing campaign. A by now defunct Facebook page was created, which gathered hundreds of thousands of followers a day, thanks to the help of a cluster of Facebook pages traced back to Bannon’s orbit, which cross-shared STS’s content.
STS was initially affiliated with Women for America First, founded by Roger Stone’s ex-wife Ann Stone, Tea Party battle horse Amy Kremer and Kathryn Serkes, each running several related projects. But, probably in order to not be outright identified with militias, Kremer and consorts backed off from openly supporting the STS rallies, and were subsequently “ousted.”
A special role in the whole con job has been played by a bunch of former Breitbart journalists, who left when Bannon assumed his post as chief presidential adviser in 2016, and were repurposed as grifters for various MAGA projects like Build The Wall Inc.
Among them the “Bonnie and Clyde” of STS and Build the Wall, the couple Dustin Stockton and Jennifer Lawrence. Stockton, Lawrence, Patrick Howley and other former Breitbarters built the backbone for the America First Project in 2017, as well as the media arm, Big League Politics and America First Projects, backfeeding lies and conspiracies haunting the Trumpian echo chamber.
Dustin Stockton and Jennifer Lawrence.
Stockton is a high-school dropout roaming the country with his March for Trump/Women for America First caravan to hook up various local troopers, likely to get them on track with the battle order. His startling career from stoned drifter, forklift driver, poker player, to founder of a far-right PAC and Tea Party chief strategist, before he moved on to Breitbart and Gun Owners of America,1 certainly deserves a closer look.
In part two of this investigation we will give more scrutiny to those projects outlined above that appear connected to criminal activities, particularly the scammy revenue schemes that have been feeding back money into several Trump support campaigns, including the cashing in on the COVID-19 pandemic by selling and promoting false remedies such as Hydroxychloroquine.
The indications that the Biden team is not intent to push for investigations into the criminal nature of the Trump swamp “for the sake of unity” are very disturbing. If there will be no legal challenge to the apparent coup that Trump and his network of grifters are plotting, there is no doubt they will continue to do their utmost to erode what is left of American democracy.
- 1. Dustin Stockton, Community Organizer: A Tea Party Story (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform Kindle Edition, January 17, 2013).