Maddow Blog | Charges against Epoch Times CFO come with political implications

It’s no secret that there are a variety of media outlets that many Republican officials have come to embrace, promote, and rely on. Some, such as Fox News and the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal, are familiar to national audiences. Others, such as the Washington Times, Newsmax, and OAN are also widely recognized.

And then there’s the Epoch Times.

As NBC News reported last fall, Falun Gong launched the Epoch Times “as a free propaganda newsletter more than two decades ago to oppose the Chinese Communist Party.” The conspiracy-fueled outlet has since grown considerably: The report added that it “directed millions of dollars in advertising toward supporting President Donald Trump’s campaign and published dozens of articles parroting his lies about the election — resulting in huge growth to its audience and its coffers.”

Prominent Republican officials have taken note. Earlier this year, for example, the Epoch Times held a Capitol screening of a conspiratorial documentary about the Jan. 6 attack, and Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin spoke at the event and peddled bizarre claims.

It was a timely reminder that the Epoch Times had quietly transformed itself into “one of the country’s most successful and influential conservative news organizations.”

That rapid success, however, is now receiving fresh scrutiny. CNBC reported:

According to a written statement from the Justice Department, Weidong “Bill” Guan has been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and two counts of bank fraud. He’s since pleaded not guilty.

The defendant “conspired with others to benefit himself, the media company, and its affiliates by laundering tens of millions of dollars in fraudulently obtained unemployment insurance benefits and other crime proceeds,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in the DOJ statement. “When banks raised questions about the funds, Guan allegedly lied repeatedly and falsely claimed that the funds came from legitimate donations to the media company,” Williams added.

CNBC’s report went on to explain the details of the alleged money-laundering network, which prosecutors believe transferred funds into bank accounts linked with the Epoch Times.

As best as I can tell, Republican officials have said effectively nothing about the indictment, though if recent history is any guide, it seems likely that GOP lawmakers and their allies will lash out at law enforcement and accuse the Justice Department of wrongdoing.

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