The Justice Department will not extradite a Chinese dissident wanted by Beijing who has exposed high-level Communist Party corruption, according to a senior Justice Department official.
Guo Wengui, a billionaire businessman who until two years ago had close ties to the Chinese intelligence community and access to its secrets, is being sought by China on questionable criminal charges.
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Since earlier this year, China's government has engaged in a wide-ranging influence operation, including the use of cyber attacks on American institutions, in a bid to force the United States to repatriate Guo to China.
The effort has included the use of American business leaders with interests in China to lobby President Trump to return the dissident.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has reviewed the case and determined Guo will not be forcibly returned, the senior official told reporters during a briefing at the White House.
China's Public Security Minister Guo Shengkun, no relation to Guo Wengui, met with Sessions on Oct. 9 during security talks in Washington that included the discussion of fugitives sought by China.
"At that time the Chinese were aggressive at undermining him," the senior official said of Guo.
During the talks, Sessions raised the issue of a Chinese cyber attack against networks at the Hudson Institute, a Washington think tank that had scheduled a conference with Guo. Chinese officials told their U.S. counterparts they would investigate the incident.
The Hudson Institute abruptly canceled the meeting with Guo under pressure from the Chinese embassy in Washington. An email from a Chinese embassy official to Hudson threatened to curtail access to China for Hudson scholars if the institute went through with the conference.
The denial of service cyber attack on the institute was traced by security investigators to Shanghai.
Guo, who now lives in New York City, has become an outspoken critic of China's government and a pro-democracy advocate who has charged that senior leaders are engaged in corrupt financial and other activities. He has labeled the ruling Communist Party of China a "kleptocracy" and warned that China's government is working to subvert the United States.
Asked about the official's comments, Guo told the Washington Free Beacon: "America is the safest place that always welcomes and protects the persecuted around world because of its tradition and rule-of-law."
"I appreciate very much the protection and a new life that the U.S. government provides for me and my family despite the Chinese kleptocrats’ pressure to force Washington deport me to China to silence me, and kill me," Guo said.
Protection in America "has once again proved that this great country resolutely stands for its values, for justice, and for humanity," he said.
Guo said his efforts to expose systematic corruption and the subsequent smear campaign by the Chinese government and attempted renditions drove him far from his home.
"But now I have found a new home, and I am determined to continue my fight against kleptocracy and work diligently to promote rule of law and democracy in China, so that every Chinese will have a safe place to call home," Guo said.
The dissident was at one time close to China's vice minister of state security, Ma Jian, who is believed to be one of the sources for Guo's disclosures about high-level Chinese corruption. Ma has been imprisoned on corruption charges as part of Chinese leader Xi Jinping's anti-corruption campaign.
Guo, however, said in a recent interview that Ma was silenced on trumped up charges because he had uncovered corruption among senior Chinese leaders.
In October, Guo disclosed a top-secret document from the Chinese national security commission revealing orders to dispatch 27 intelligence agents to the United States to conduct operations "for further crushing overseas anti-China hostile forces." Earlier, he disclosed that Chinese intelligence operations in the United States involve more than 25,000 operatives.
The Chinese government denounced the document as a forgery. Beijing also used its influence within the international police organization Interpol to issue a "red notice" against Guo. The use of Interpol for such notices has been a tactic of repressive governments seeking dissidents.
Through his YouTube videos and Twitter posts, Guo has garnered widespread support among Chinese nationals inside China and around the world. He is believed to have millions of supporters.
As a result of his exposes, China has pressured American social media companies, including Facebook and Twitter, to limit his use of their outlets.
Among the senior officials who he says are engaged in illicit financial activities, Guo accused Wang Qishan, a member of the seven member collective dictatorship that rules China and the Party's financial czar, of corruption. Guo has said Wang made millions through covert real estate investments in California and by installing relatives at a major financial conglomerate known as HNA.
Wang retired from the Politburo standing committee last month and Guo has said his revelations about Wang's financial activities prevented his reappointment to the powerful standing committee.
Guo applied for political asylum in September asserting that he is the target of a political repression by the Communist government.
On reports Sessions threatened to resign in internal discussions rather than forcibly repatriate Guo, the senior official said: "That's a bit of an overstatement."
The senior Justice official also reviewed the department's activities over the past year and highlighted several successes, including the Supreme Court reinstatement of most parts of a travel ban affecting six Muslim majority nations.
The official called the action a victory for the Trump administration.
A federal judge blocked the executive order earlier this year.
"We always knew we would win in the Supreme Court," the senior official said, adding, "we’ve got judges that are overreaching."
The senior official also commented on reports of politicization within the Justice Department and FBI related to officials involved in high profile investigations, including last year's probe of Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while secretary of state, and FBI politicization regarding the investigation of Russian election meddling.
The senior official indicated there are concerns about the problem. "The American people expect the Department of Justice to be doing their job with fairness and justice and without political bias," the official said.
A senior FBI counterintelligence official, Peter Strzok, was removed from the special counsel probe headed by former FBI Director Robert Mueller after he was found to have sent text messages critical of Trump and supportive of Clinton.
Senior Justice Department official Bruce G. Ohr was demoted amid an inquiry into his contacts with a political opposition research firm linked to an anti-Trump dossier, Fox News reported last week.
One of Mueller's investigators on the Trump-Russia probe, Andrew Weissmann, a former Justice Department prosecutor, also attended Hillary Clinton's election-night party in New York City, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.
The disclosures have raised questions among congressional Republicans about whether the Mueller probe has been tainted by partisanship among its investigators.
The senior official said department lawyers are looking into the possibility of appointing a special counsel to investigate possible wrongdoing by Clinton related to the Uranium One deal.
That deal is one of 14 cases department lawyers currently are reviewing. The official said the reviews will seek one of three possible actions: Adding resources to existing investigations; speeding up current investigations, or appointing a special counsel based on concerns the department will not be able to conduct an impartial inquiry.
"That process is ongoing," the official said.
The senior official did not indicate whether or not appointing more special counsels is a preferred option but suggested there is opposition to new special counsel investigations.
People linked to the Canadian uranium producer Uranium One made large cash donations to the Clinton Foundation at the time Clinton was secretary of state and participating in interagency discussions on approving Russia's state-run Rosatom to purchase the company. The sale was approved and Uranium One is now a subsidiary of Rosatom.
The Clinton Foundation has avoided federal investigations despite allegations of corruption linked to the secretary of state first disclosed by author Peter Schweizer in his 2015 book "Clinton Cash."
On Trump administration plans for immigration reform, the official said the administration is considering a merit-based system similar to one used by Canada.
The system would consider immigrant entry factors on a point scale including age, education, job skills, and language ability. The current U.S. system is based largely on admissions related to potential immigrants having a family member in the country.
The Justice Department also is working to replace Obama administration-era U.S. attorneys around the country and has dismissed all but one of the 94 federal attorneys. Democrats in Congress have delayed replacing the attorneys, the official said.
Priorities for the Justice Department include increasing efforts to combat violent crime that is increasing after a 30-year decline and addressing the opioid crisis.
Opioid deaths in the United States increased from 52,000 last year to around 64,000 this year, much of it the result of imports of fentanyl, much of it from China, that is added to heroin to boost its effects.
To better deal with the opioid abuse, the federal government is increasing its partnerships with state and local law enforcement agencies.