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September 27, 2022

Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon turns himself in over New York state charges

Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon turns himself in over New York state charges

Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon arrived in court in New York on Thursday to face fresh charges related to a charity that was supposed to use private funds to build the U.S.-Mexico border wall.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office said Thursday that he and New York Attorney General Letitia James would hold a news conference on the charges and that Bannon would be arraigned in the afternoon.

Bannon was hit with charges related to the same scheme by federal prosecutors in August 2020. He pleaded not guilty and was later pardoned by then-President Donald Trump.

In a statement to NBC News on Tuesday, Bannon, 68, said, “This is nothing more than a partisan political weaponization of the criminal justice system.”

NBC News reported in February 2021 that the district attorney’s office had opened an investigation into Bannon’s involvement in the alleged scam a month after Trump pardoned him. Presidential pardons only apply to federal cases, meaning New York is not prohibited from pursuing similar charges.

The federal case alleged that Bannon was one of four people who “orchestrated a scheme to defraud hundreds of thousands of donors” out of more than $25 million through an online crowdfunding campaign called “We Build the Wall.” Bannon had used a separate nonprofit organization under his control to receive more than $1 million of wall-building funds, federal authorities said.

Two of his co-defendants, Brian Kolfage and Andrew Badolato, pleaded guilty in April and are scheduled to be sentenced in December. A trial for the third co-defendant, Timothy Shea, ended in a mistrial in June, when the jury deadlocked and couldn’t reach a verdict. Shea is scheduled to be retried in October.

Bannon is also awaiting sentencing after being convicted of misdemeanor contempt of Congress charges for snubbing subpoenas from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. He faces up to a year in jail and $100,000 in fines.

Bannon’s case is not the first brought by the New York district attorney’s office involving the former president’s allies.

Last June, the office charged the Trump Organization and its then-chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, with tax fraud and other charges in what they described as a sweeping, 15-year scheme to compensate top executives “off the books” and help them avoid paying taxes.

Weisselberg, who pleaded guilty in the case last month, is expected to testify against the company when the case goes to trial in October.

The company pleaded not guilty and Trump has not been charged in the case. He has, however, insisted that the investigation is part of a political “witch hunt” against him and has accused Bragg, who is Black, of being a “racist” for pursuing the case.

The case was initially brought by Bragg’s predecessor, Cyrus Vance.

Vance also brought a criminal case in 2019 against Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort for allegedly falsifying business records to obtain millions of dollars in residential mortgage loans. The case was later dismissed on double jeopardy grounds as he had already been tried and convicted for related crimes uncovered by former special counsel Robert Mueller.

Manafort’s case likely won’t help Bannon. The state passed a law in late 2019 that allows its prosecutors to pursue investigations into any recipient of a presidential pardon who served in a president’s administration, worked directly or indirectly to advance a presidential campaign or transition, or worked at a nonprofit or business controlled by a president, and whose alleged criminal activity took place in New York.

Dareh Gregorian is a politics reporter for NBC News.

Tom Winter


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