Journalist and author Lee Smith spoke recently at the Freedom Center’s annual Restoration Weekend, held November 10-13, 2022 at the Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix, AZ.
Smith presented his insights on the various agents of foreign influence endangering the United States, thanks to the Biden administration’s willful incompetence and weakness.
Don’t miss it below!
Mr. Smith: First of all, it’s an enormous pleasure to be here and to be a guest of David Horowitz. The first time I was here, it was in Florida. It was about 10 years ago, and that was before I’d had the chance to read — excuse me — but I always love taking the opportunity to talk about David’s book, “Radical Son,” which is one I’m sure most of you — [Applause] –I hope most of you have read it; if you haven’t, please do. It’s just an amazing — all of David’s work is great, but that book is just one of the fundamental books in American literature. It’s so beautifully written and so important, and I always like to have the opportunity to talk about it.
The other author I’m going to talk about who isn’t here is Peter Schweitzer. I wish Peter was here. Peter’s work is fantastic, it’s important. And you are lucky and I am lucky too that I virtually memorized Peter’s book, “Red-Handed,” because I’ve been working on a lot of China material too. And Peter and his organization have been so helpful to me for the work that I’ve been doing looking at China in particular. So some of you — I hope many of you — I would imagine, since it’s been on The Time’s best seller list for a long time, I would imagine many of you have read this book and know Peter’s book very well.
So you understand that when we talk about the corruption of the Biden family, this is barely the tip of the iceberg, right? This is the way that I understand the Democratic Party is it’s structurally pro-China. And what I mean about that is if you look at where the Democrats’ campaign money comes from, and unfortunately, this used to be the case oftentimes with Republicans too, much less so after Donald Trump really shined a light on this. But the Democrats cannot run national campaigns without money that originates somewhere in China. If you look at where their donor class is drawing from, from Hollywood, from Wall Street, from big tech, and from universities, all of the finally starts in China.
So you see what the struggle is, what the struggle was, for the Trump administration, what the struggle is for anyone who wants to turn the focus on China and what the problems that the Chinese Communist Party poses to American peace and prosperity, because between us, the Great Wall is an American establishment, right? That’s the issue, that is the fundamental issue. And Peter does just a phenomenal job here going through all the different institutions, all the different people. Peter has all the names, both the American names and the figures from the Chinese Communist Party. So if you haven’t read it yet, please, I recommend it very highly, not just as a great read and as a scorecard, but to understand how difficult this will be.
I will speak for myself, this is a struggle that will go on well past my lifespan, right? This is a very serious and formidable threat. And to untie us, decouple us, from the Chinese Communist Party will take a very long time because it started 50 years ago with Henry Kissinger. And my particular reading of this, and I suspect many of you will disagree, and if you do, then I hope you will speak up as we’ll move to questions in one second. I think it was a disaster from the outset. You hear many people credit both Kissinger and Nixon for a geostrategic master stroke.
Well, in fact, if you look at the record, the way that Kissinger and Nixon negotiated with Zhou Enlai, and to a much lesser extent, Mao Zedong, but there was nothing. The diplomacy was deplorable. It was a matter of giving everything over to the Chinese without getting anything in exchange. And I think it’s important to understand that way because a lot of people are wondering, well, wait, when did this go wrong, because we’ve been told for so long that the Chinese were reforming, that communism was on its way out. These people were making money and they were going to become capitalists. Well, this is not whatever happened.
This is not what was ever going on. And so when people talk right now about Xi Jinping, and when they talk about, well, it appears that the Chinese are again returning to authoritarianism, it never changed. This was always the case, it was always the case. The people who were describing it otherwise, again, was the U.S. establishment that was tied into China. Look at the different things that they had to overlook to make the Chinese Communist Party look like a reasonable American partner.
First of all, when Nixon and Kissinger went there, they were still in the middle of the Cultural Revolution during which hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people were killed by the regime. And this is of course, after the Great Leap Forward, where perhaps as many as 50 million people were killed. As we enter in 1989, you know about Tiananmen Square demonstrations, where thousands were killed on the streets. And George H.W. Bush nonetheless sent envoys there, both of whom had worked for Henry Kissinger, by the way, Brent Snowcroft and Lawrence Eagleburger. And they went and they told (inaudible), they said, don’t worry, we’re partners; things are going to have to get cool a little bit, but don’t worry, we’re partners. That was Tiananmen.
In the ’90s when Jiang Zemin, the people that you will hear everyone talk about as the moderate, the great moderate Jiang Zemin, the reason they talk about him as the great moderate is because the number of Americans who went to China and made tons of money with Jiang, while Jiang was — he opened up another war. The Chinese were already waging an internal war against the Tibetans. He opened up another front against a dissident movement known as the Falun Gong. I know many Falun Gong practitioners because they are the major figures behind the Epoch Times, which is a publication I write for, and I also do a podcast for them called Over The Target.
This started under Jiang in the 1990s. And remember, all of these things were getting — relations were getting warmer and warmer, and it was bipartisan. It was George H.W. Bush, it was Bill Clinton, it was George W. Bush, it was Henry Paulson, it was Barack Obama. It was everyone across the board. And this is one of the things that I found in my research that you will hear a lot of people, and I agree, again having done work on what we call the deep state. A number of the Trump appointees were not great. He put together a remarkable team on China and one of the people, one of the leaders of that we’ll be hearing tonight, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, who was amazing. The work that this administration — the previous administration did on China is terrific and they definitely deserve applause, as does President Trump — [Applause] — just a number of really remarkable people, and we can talk about that more in the question-and-answer. I just want to move on very quickly now so we can go to questions and answers.
Agents of influence is a very important topic for me because when I first started writing for Tablet Magazine — I hope some of you know Tablet Magazine. It’s a great publication. I’ve been writing for them since February, 2010. And the idea was what we were going to do — Tablet is a liberal Jewish publication in New York, and since I’m not a liberal nor Jewish, that I would be the right-wing lunatic, making the case for important pro-American issues, including support for Israel.
But the reason that Agents — that was the name of the column that I started writing then. My column has a different name now, or it may not have a name, but our column started right after the Israel lobby was published. And we were appalled for a number of reasons by that book and by that approach. And our idea was, well wait, Washington — actually, Washington — there is no other purpose for Washington to exist as a place where foreign powers come and exercise influence. So the idea that somehow the Jews are being singled out for advocating on behalf of Israel is obscene and perverse. So we started talking about a number of other places, whether that was Iran and the Iran lobby, that was some of the columns I did. And of course, this is — China plays an enormous role in pushing influence throughout Washington, and it’s pervasive.
Mr. Smith: I’m very flattered you wanted to see me. That’s very kind, thank you. (Laughter). I’m just going to grab a little water, one second.
Male Speaker: (Inaudible).
Mr. Smith: Thank you, Mark, thanks. So Agents of Influence is a hugely important topic to me. And again, this played a role when I was working on all the RussiaGate stuff, because one of the things you notice if you are following different people who are exercising influence in Washington, you say, yes, of course you see different people advocating on behalf of the U.S.-Israel relationship and that’s how APAC describes itself. And that is sort of true on behalf of the relationship.
But you find lots of people pushing for Iran, you find lots of people pushing for Qatar, or you find — I lived in Lebanon for several years. I was very close to a lot of Lebanese, I have a Godchild in Lebanon. And so you find lots of people pushing for Lebanon. What you don’t see that much of is you don’t see a lot of people pushing for Russia and so this was one of the peculiar things. It’s like Russia, everyone is talking about Russia, and this is one of the things that I noticed right off, among many things, when they were talking about Donald Trump and Trump aids and Russia. This is bizarre because there just aren’t that many people here in Washington who are pushing for Russia and in fact, at the time that they were going after Donald Trump for this as a candidate.
So this can’t be true because I see what’s happening here, Obama officials are coordinating with Vladimir Putin’s officials over Syria. So the idea that somehow these same Obama officials, the same people who are coordinating with Putin over Syria are, at the same time, leaking to the same newspapers, especially the Washington Post, that Donald Trump is in bed with the Russians, made no sense to me because the number of people who are actually pushing probably-Russia stuff in Washington is extremely small. And in fact, the people who were doing it were in Hillary Clinton’s State Department and in Barack Obama’s Pentagon and Barack Obama’s White House. So it’s very useful to understand, to have that perspective on Washington because it’s going to show you a lot of what’s happening here in the United States.
And I just want to conclude with one thing, talking about Agents of Influence, so we can open it up to questions and answers. And this is one agent of influence. I don’t think — I was speaking last night with some friends, Brian and Lee here last night, so they’ve heard me go on this a little bit. What we’re watching right now unfold in this state, in the governor’s race, is also in part a function of an agent of influence, a foreign agent of influence, and that’s narco traffickers. And I think this should shape how we understand, over the coming days, weeks, and months, how we understand what’s happening with our election system. And there are people here who know a lot about elections, as I don’t, how they run, but the narco trafficking thing is fundamental.
Kari Lake, God bless her, first of all, I should say, I she wins not only for this state, but for the country. [Applause]. And she’s such an exciting figure, she’s just such an exciting figure. But the fact it’s taken this long tells me she’s not going to win, okay? And how’s this? My email is Lee Smith462@protonmail.com. If she wins, please email me. I will write you back a personal apology, not a group apology, seriously, or I’ll just say I was wrong.
I really want to be wrong, but I don’t think I will be, first of all, because we’ve seen how long this is drawn out. The people who are in control are drawing it out, not to build suspense for Americans. Wow, how exciting, how wonderful. It’s just like a halftime show at the Super Bowl. No, they’re drawing it out — they’re not drawing it out, they’re trying to find a way to make her lose, right? [Applause]. That’s it, these are the facts. And you see the different things that happened.
One time I reported from the Middle East, I moved to Egypt after 9/11, I reported elections from Egypt, I reported elections from Lebanon. If this was going on in Egypt or Lebanon, the State Department would say, this is garbage, right? I saw what happened reporting election in Egypt. Hosni Mubarak was the head of the National Democratic Party at that point, and they wouldn’t let in poll workers from the opposition parties. And the State Department and the embassy said, this is garbage, it’s a garbage election. That’s what happened in 2020, but now if you say something about it, you’re in big trouble, you’re an election denier. You’re this, you’re that. You’re a conspiracy theorist. [Applause].
This is an indication of what’s going on. It’s not that they’ve gone crazy, it’s not, wow, so what’s crazy hypocrisy, but Stacey Abrams denied it, and Hillary Clinton denied it. It’s a criminal enterprise, okay? And that’s what we can understand right now with the narco trafficking. Just to come back quickly to what Kari Lake said, she said, “I’m taking on the narco traffickers.” Wow, God bless her. Everyone has got to be with her, right or left, has got to be with her. Protect our country, protect our children, not just the borders, protect everything. But that right there, that’s a challenge and you can bet that those people rose to the challenge.
What’s happened here the last 2 years? The borders are open. Why are the borders open? We all watch Fox News or whatever, One America, Newsmax, we all read the same things. Don’t they know all the fentanyl and all the drugs and all the other things that are — of course, of course, do. And nonetheless, it’s open. Why, why? Wait till Joe Biden finds out that they’re sending over fentanyl that’s killing people. Joe Biden’s going to be so mad. (Laughter). Boy, I don’t want to be in Joe Biden’s way when he finds out they’re sending drugs, not just asylum seekers.
So this is an agent of influence. It’s an agent of influence right now. That’s what’s partly affecting the election. There are lots of other interests here. There are lots of other people who are party to this, but there is no doubt, given that the border has been open for 2 years to these people, and Kari Lake stands up and says, I’m taking them on. These people have a vested stake in Kari Lake losing. And you can bet they’re part of that network. That’s an agent of influence and the agents of influence are let in by Washington, right? It’s easy to keep them out.
When we talk about what do we do with the Chinese? I can’t believe this. What are we going to do, they’re everywhere. Here’s one way to start. And you’ve heard people like Senator Cotton talk about this. How about this? How about no student visas? None. [Applause]. We talk about what the FBI is — some of you all may have a question about this. This is the FBI, can the FBI be reformed?
How are we doing? We still have —
Male Speaker: (Inaudible).
Lee Smith: Oh, we’re okay?
Male Speaker: Oh, you have plenty of time.
Lee Smith: Okay. I’m going to cut it off in — and this always happens. I always say, I’m going to keep it to 10 minutes, and then my motor-mouth takes off.
Should the FBI — can the FBI be reformed? My opinion, no, certainly not, and there’s plenty of evidence that it can’t be reformed. And look, here’s a problem. Even the jobs that the FBI should be doing, right, like counterintelligence, Chinese spies. And you hear these stories. I have to give Joe Biden a break on this one thing. When they’re talking about how he shut down this DOJ, the China initiative, do you know how many people it takes to have one person under surveillance? Well, we all know now after they had the Trump team under surveillance. It takes about 20 — something like 25 to 30 people. With 300,000 Chinese student visa holders in the country, who wants an FBI of 6 million people? No one. So that’s the problem.
The problem can be stopped, but the answers are always going to be in Washington. And that’s the problem with the agents of influence in this election. That’s a problem that can certainly be solved, and a large part of that solution has to be in Washington. But I do want to — this is the last thing I’ll say, talking about this particular agent of influence. This is very serious and it’s not going to be solved by using the same mechanisms that the Democratic Party uses. It’s not ballots, it’s not ballot harvesting, it’s not drop-in mailboxes, it’s not the mail-in vote. It’s much more serious than that.
It’s about owning infrastructure, that’s what it’s about. And until you own infrastructure, you’re going to have different things like narco traffickers having a say in American elections. And that’s a very dangerous place where we are right now. So certainly, these forms of foreign influence in our elections, in our political process, is deadly. And the solutions are obvious, to demand of our leaders right now, only on the Republican side, to demand of our leaders to look squarely at this and address it.
Look, one of the problems with the Democrats is going to be, as I said, even if the Democrats did want to solve problems with China — and they don’t — but even if they did, everyone’s saying, well, is Joe Biden going to get hard on China? Is he going to get tough on China? At some point, even if he forgets all about his son, Hunter Biden, and what he’s done and their relations with China, at some point, someone’s going to say, Mr. President, we can’t fund an election if you decide to go after China; we actually have no money. Hollywood will give us nothing, big tech, nothing. Wall Street will cut us off, nothing, the universities, nothing. If we try to cut back on the student visa holders, do you know what I’m already hearing from the presidents of Harvard, Yale, and Princeton? Oh, forget it, you can’t do it. These are political issues, these are political problems.
So that is my short introduction to a very large and important issue, agents of influence. And I look forward to having your questions. In the meantime, thanks so much again. [Applause]. I’m going to stay up here so you can see me.
Male Speaker: I’m going to hand the microphone, Frank [Appi] is going to have the first question. Then I’ll come up to John.
Audience Member: Thank you, Michael. Lee, thank you.
Lee Smith: Frank, thank you.
Audience Member: What you’ve been doing on a whole host of fronts and the new book that I know you’re —
Lee Smith: That’s very kind. Thank you.
Audience Member: I wanted to ask you about a related topic to several that you sort of touched on. One, the students here, some 300,000 of them as things stand now, and the other sort of, well, Agents of Influence, the elite capture problem that seems to be giving a pass to something that’s very worrying. And we’ll talk about a little bit later in the day that the prospect of actual kinetic war with China, that I think is now looming, Xi Jinping has made it very clear he sees the population outside of China, of China nationals, as a fifth column. At the same time, he is instituting here and elsewhere, as we’ve talked about, these so-called overseas police service centers whose principal purpose seems to be to make Chinese nationals do the bidding of China, including, in some cases, go back for prosecution.
Could you talk a little bit about this as an example of how we could possibly be turning a blind eye to the operations of at least one of them here, and the phenomenon more broadly of (inaudible)?
Lee Smith: Yes, I imagine that the Chinese have made a pretty persuasive case, just as they did under the Trump administration. I believe that the Trump administration was going to announce an investigation of the origins of Covid-19. And maybe Secretary Pompeo will speak about it tonight because the State Department did a fantastic investigation of the origins of Covid-19. And I think this investigation was going to be opened up even further. And the Chinese said, well, yes, you can do that. If you do that though, we’re going to cut you off from all the medications that are made in China, which is basically everything.
So I would imagine the Chinese made a very strong case in that point. But I would just come back to the idea that a lot of you will remember as the conflict in Ukraine began, a lot of people said, well, if Biden doesn’t come down hard on Putin here regarding Ukraine, that Xi is looking at this and will make Taiwan more vulnerable. And my case was always, wait a minute, there was an attack on the United States and the Chinese have never paid a price for this. And I’m not saying it’s a deliberate leak of Covid-19; that would be hard to figure out.
We do know one thing though. We know that Beijing lied about the nature of transmission, they lied about the origins. So at a certain point, that became an information operation that was part of an attack on the United States that was responsible for lots of death, lots of injury, and much damage to the economy. So the idea that again, people talk about, well, what will we do with Taiwan? Is Biden really prepared to do this or that? I doubt it. And that’s because we look again an attack on the U.S. homeland and we see the way the press covers it, ah, it’s a conspiracy theory. None of this ever happened, right? Well, again, it’s not about a deliberate leak, it’s about what happened after. It’s about the information that came. It’s about the information that came from China. It’s about the way that the information was weaponized.
Male Speaker: We’re going to go right here.
Audience Member: Yes, I had the sad experience to be working for a Chinese electronic surveillance company. They took over the electronic surveillance field in the U.S. in 17 months. They dedicated $3.5 billion to taking over the electronic surveillance industry in the United States, and they were very successful. With that kind of money, they undercut the entire market. You may have read about it. It was big news for a couple of days, that they had their equipment installed in, I think, 6,000 military installations worldwide.
And I was also friends with someone who ran a website that did training extensively and testing of surveillance equipment. And he was the one that discovered they had a back door to all this equipment that you could easily penetrate and monitor everything that was going on in their electronic surveillance equipment. And as soon as he published that, I was alerted to that. I was writing training on all their advanced equipment, which was they take it almost directly from the military and put it into their consumer product stream. Actually it was a professional product stream. Anyway, it was followed up by a letter that I was told to sign that condemned the Trump administration and affirmed my allegiance to their company. Of course, I sent the letter immediately to the FBI and resigned. I was very angry.
And almost immediately, the — not because of me, but because of a number of things, the Trump administration removed all of the surveillance equipment from all military bases and their — [Applause]. Yes, yes, he did it, and it was in days and their business went down by 7/8 and they had to pull back a lot of people. The lesson I got from it was that it’s the administration and the president they hated was on our side.
And possibly, the only answer is massive financial penalties to the Chinese would be the only answer to get the agents of influence that are everywhere because since we’ve imported all of our manufacturing to the basic substances and goods that our economy runs on to them, we also have a noose around their neck. And if we choose to pull on it, they run out of air as well. Could you talk a little bit about the reciprocal side?
Lee Smith: I’m not sure what you mean by the reciprocal side. What do you —
Audience Member: (Inaudible).
Lee Smith: Right, yes, my understanding is they’re very dependent on us for a number of things, including lots of foodstuffs. So that’s certainly true, but an enormous difference — and I think that this is the fundamental issue when we’re talking about agents of influence. The fundamental problem is not China; the fundamental problem is the Americans here. The fundamental issue is the Americans who are just willing to have that money. [Applause]. So again, and that’s what — when we want to talk about China and how do we get at China and stop them from doing this or that, I’m like, look, I agree, but there’s a very important thing between us and the Chinese Communist Party. And that’s lots of Americans, right?
And I’m not saying that the Americans are communists. Some may be, I don’t know. But the fundamental point is that a lot of people have found that what’s been going on the last half century is very appealing and why not keep it like that? And you’ve heard all the different excuses. You’ve heard the noise coming, oh, the Chinese are too big, they’re unstoppable, it’s 1.4 billion people. This is the messaging in Washington, they’re inevitable, they’re unstoppable. There are more rewards if you sign on board now, and the people who don’t sign on will be crushed. Again, the problem is the American — you can call it the American leadership, the U.S. ruling class, however we want to put it. To me that’s the fundamental issue.
Male Speaker: Okay. We’re going to try to get two more quick questions, Phyllis and then John. And then we’ll immediately segue into the election panel.
Audience Member: Well, you essentially just addressed what my question was going to be, and it was about money and influence. And I would assume that the universities are getting large amounts of money from the Chinese to help indoctrinate these students who are coming out and are going into leadership roles. And I often wonder, do these universities understand what they’re doing? Do they care or are they communists, just out-and-out communists, the administrations? And is it possible also though that Joe Biden is being blackmailed by them?
Lee Smith: Oh, that Joe Biden’s being blackmailed by the Chinese? Without any evidence at hand, I hesitate to speculate too much on that, though I think there’s a lot of interesting information out there. And it’s possible to put together some — a compelling argument that something like that may be going on. Just to talk about, is it the Chinese who are poisoning American minds? No, I’m also against — and many of you may disagree with me about this, which is fine. For me, the fundamental problem with the United States is not Klaus Schwab or the World Economic Forum. To quote Stalin, how many divisions does Klaus Schwab have? None, he has none.
The problem with the United States of America is the people who are running the United States of America. [Applause]. Look, it might be different if you live in the Netherlands, but we live here in the United States. And the problem is — the issue is state institutions that these people control, elections that these people control. That’s the problem, that’s who’s poisoning American minds. And look, if you look at the different stuff that kids are learning, I’ve done a couple shows on this with Epoch Times. This garbage goes back to — the problem is not in [Davos]. The problem is with our high school reading list, right? I’m not talking about Ibrahim Kennedy either. I’m talking about Thoreau, I’m talking about Emerson, the garbage that these people believed, it’s just astonishing.
So if you look at these different ideas that have been processed through American literature and through American culture, and the ideas about the ideas about the chosen, the idea about who are the American elite and who are the plebes, this has been going on for a very long time. So the Chinese are definitely not a positive influence. And there’s definitely instances of American universities as well as — I’m sure you’ve heard of the Schwartzman scholars, which brings talented students over to Beijing. They’re exposing them to intelligence operations, which is a terrible thing to do. But poisoning American minds, again, that’s the work of Americans.
Male Speaker: Last question.
Audience Member: Two questions. First of all, could you expand upon WTO and China being admitted to it? And second of all, if you are President of the United States, not an advisor, what action steps would you take now against communist China?
Lee Smith: Well, as I said, the big problem is with Americans.
Audience Member: If you are the president?
Lee Smith: I would punish — I’m telling you, I would punish every American. I would make it financially dangerous for anyone to do business, certain businesses, with the Chinese Communist Party. That’s what I would do. [Applause]. That’s the issue. We have an enormous number of people in this country who are the problem and they’re not Chinese nationals, they’re Americans. That’s what’s so about this and that’s why the problem is so profound.
The other question of the WTO, well, people who know a lot more than I do will say it was the most disastrous foreign policy move in American history and I think that’s probably pretty accurate. It wasn’t just Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, been moving this way for a long time. As I say, the problem is bipartisan. The Democrats right now, after the financial crisis, I believe in many ways, they became the vehicle for the American establishment’s relationship with China. But again, who started it? This was Nixon and Kissinger and what did they want? They wanted applause from the left. But this is who the right has long been.
And again, I think that without Donald Trump bringing attention to this, and saying this is a big issue, I think a lot of us would — I count myself — a lot of us would still be in the dark. But again, just to reemphasize this, I think our focus has to be on Americans who are defending the Chinese Communist Party, it’s that simple.
Male Speaker: Thank you.
Lee Smith: Thank you, thank you all very much. [Applause].