Prominent Trump ally Steve Bannon is under investigation by authorities in New York for his role in a fundraising scheme that defrauded people who donated to a crowdfunded effort in support of southern border wall construction, as outlined in a new report from The Washington Post. Bannon, like others, received a pardon from then-President Donald Trump shortly before he left office, but presidential pardons do not apply to state-level cases. According to the Post, investigators from the office of New York state Attorney General Letitia James (D) are working with the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance on the Bannon case.
As summarized by the Post, “Investigators employed by the state attorney general were deputized to work as prosecutors with the team led by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. (D), whose investigation of Bannon began shortly after his pardon was announced in January.” This sort of cooperation between the two offices is rare — at present, both offices are conducting their own separate investigations of potential misconduct at the Trump family business. Vance’s Trump investigation is a criminal probe.
The Post notes that it’s unclear whether James has singled out Bannon for scrutiny over any issues other than the border wall fundraising scam, although “Vance’s investigation is focused on the same allegations charged in Bannon’s federal indictment,” according to the publication. Three other individuals who were involved in that scheme, in which they lied to donors about the usage of their money, did not receive pardons from Trump and are still slated to go on trial. Prosecutors have challenged the formal dismissal of Bannon’s original indictment, insisting that the charges can stay on record even in the absence of any further federal proceedings against him.
Bannon, in a classically Trumpian fashion, personally swept up over $1 million worth of donations to the “We Build The Wall” crowdfunding effort, although those behind the campaign claimed that all money would go towards southern border wall construction. At one point, Bannon worked in the Trump White House, but he eventually departed that formal position under cloudy circumstances. Trump eventually publicly maligned Bannon after journalist Michael Wolff spread quotes from him that were disparaging towards Donald Trump Jr. Late last year, CNN reported that Bannon had “been telling friends he and President Donald Trump [had] been communicating with one another in recent months.”
Bannon was an ardent supporter of the lie that the 2020 presidential election was rigged for Joe Biden. As he put it during an episode of his podcast, Trump supporters “will never, ever, ever back down one inch from an election that’s stolen to thwart the will of the people, okay?”