Longtime Trump ally Steve Bannon is facing new criminal charges this week. Reports indicated Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg was behind the indictment, which was initially unavailable publicly, and public details connected the new charges to the “We Build the Wall” scheme.
“We Build the Wall” was a fundraising initiative, with a non-profit organization eventually driving the effort, that supposedly focused on raising money from everyday Americans in support of Donald Trump’s long-touted ambitions to “build the wall!” The group eventually brought in around $25 million by the close of 2019 — and Bannon used nearly $1 million of it for a range of his personal expenses, violating separate claims about which uses the funds would support. Before leaving office, Trump issued a presidential pardon for Bannon that erased continuing legal exposure in the fraudulent fundraising case, but Trump’s move only applied at the federal level. Bannon was previously facing federal charges in the case. Three of Bannon’s co-conspirators were also hit with federal charges, and Trump notably didn’t pardon any of them.
Two of the other individuals charged at the federal level in connection to the deceptive fundraising effort pleaded guilty, and a trial for the third, Timothy Shea, ended in a declaration of a mistrial after a juror evidently complained of a supposed “government witch hunt” and refused to engage with evidence. Reports indicated Bannon would surrender to prosecutors on Thursday. The office of the Manhattan district attorney began an investigation into issues related to “We Build the Wall” shortly after Trump issued his pardon for Bannon, who was recently convicted in a separate federal criminal case of contempt of Congress for initially refusing to cooperate with the House committee investigating the Capitol riot. In that case, Bannon faces sentencing in October.
Bannon originally joined up with the sweeping fundraising effort after GoFundMe threatened to return $17 million in donor money unless a non-profit organization started handling donations. Bannon’s involvement in the scheme also included his non-profit organization preparing a faked IRS form claiming it paid Kolfage’s spouse for “media.” Bannon ultimately benefited from the most money compared to the rest of the co-conspirators, although the other three also each raked in hundreds of thousands of dollars in funds donors were told would support building a wall, not funding high-dollar expenses.
As of early Wednesday, the specific charges Bannon is facing weren’t publicly available, although Bannon acknowledged the situation in a prepared statement, essentially confirming the reports. Bannon claimed (without real-world evidence, of course) that Bragg’s decision to bring these charges is because of the supposed power of Bannon’s media work. “I am never going to stop fighting. In fact, I have not yet begun to fight. They will have to kill me first,” Bannon said this week. Although the charges weren’t formally confirmed publicly by Bragg’s own team, the indictment was apparently already prepared but under seal.