Steve Bannon is facing legal jeopardy again.
The longtime Trump ally is now facing a series of criminal charges in New York related to his involvement in “We Build the Wall,” which was an evidently fraud-filled fundraising scheme that its organizers (a group that included Bannon) claimed would support efforts to construct a wall along the southern border of the United States. The initiative operated under false claims that all money sent in by donors would support the wall-building effort. In reality, nearly $1 million went towards Bannon’s personal expenses, and hundreds of thousands of dollars apiece was distributed to three other individuals involved in arranging the whole endeavor.
“There cannot be one set of rules for everyday people and another for the wealthy and powerful — we all must play by the same rules and must obey the law,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said on Thursday. “Mr. Bannon took advantage of his donors’ political views to secure millions of dollars which he then misappropriated. Mr. Bannon lied to his donors to enrich himself and his friends. We will continue to take on fraudulent behavior in every corner of society, including white collar criminals, because no one is above the law. I thank District Attorney Bragg for his close partnership on this matter and commend the dedicated teams at the Attorney General’s Office and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office for their hard work.”
James’s team was involved in the New York investigation into We Build the Wall alongside the office of the Manhattan district attorney. “After an investigation by my office and [the Manhattan district attorney], Steve Bannon has been indicted for stealing more than $15 million from thousands of Americans for his sham effort to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico,” James said via a slightly different version of her comments posted to Twitter. “No matter how powerful you are, no one is above the law.”
Bannon joined the disputed fundraising effort after GoFundMe threatened to return some $17 million in initial donations unless a non-profit organization took over handling fundraising. While facing federal criminal charges, Bannon was granted a presidential reprieve by Trump shortly before Donald left office, but presidential grants of clemency only cover federal matters, meaning Bannon remained in jeopardy of further charges. Trump never pardoned the three other individuals charged by federal authorities in the scheme, two of whom eventually pleaded guilty. A trial for the third ended inconclusively after a member of the jury began complaining of a supposed government “witch hunt,” although the prosecutor responsible for the case indicated he isn’t abandoning it.
We Build the Wall — a non-profit organization connected to the broader fundraising effort operating under that name — was also hit with unsealed charges. The allegations include money laundering, conspiracy, and fraud. Donor money that was distributed to Brian Kolfage was routed through another non-profit organization Bannon controlled, which was provided more than $100,000 in funds from We Build the Wall — funds the other organization then gave Kolfage. Kolfage eventually raked in over a quarter of a million dollars in money from We Build the Wall, although that money wasn’t all routed through Bannon’s other non-profit organization. Bannon is predictably claiming the new charges are politically motivated.
After an investigation by my office and @ManhattanDA, Steve Bannon has been indicted for stealing more than $15 million from thousands of Americans for his sham effort to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
No matter how powerful you are, no one is above the law. pic.twitter.com/7uNGTQFAev
— NY AG James (@NewYorkStateAG) September 8, 2022