Thomas Gallatin / Aug. 24, 2020

Bannon Busted for Border-Wall Grifting

Trump’s former chief strategist claims it’s a hit job, but the evidence shows otherwise.

Last week, President Donald Trump’s former campaign head and chief strategist Steve Bannon was arrested and charged with money laundering and conspiracy to commit fraud. The charges stem from an alleged grifting scheme in which Bannon and three others funneled money from “We Build the Wall,” the nonprofit they started in 2018, to profit themselves.

Former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy explains, “The scheme is big but not complicated. According to the indictment, in late 2018, [Brian] Kolfage, with the help of [Timothy] Shea and others, established a campaign originally called ‘We the People Build the Wall’ through GoFundMe (described in the indictment as the ‘Crowdfunding Website’). The concept was that private citizens would contribute money to be donated to the government for the construction of a wall on the southern border. The campaign was instantly successful as a fundraising vehicle, quickly racking up $17 million in commitments, and ultimately $25 million. For the money to be released, GoFundMe required an entity into which it could be transferred, as well as assurances that the funds would be dedicated to the stated purpose of the campaign. To help him, Kolfage brought Bannon and [Andrew] Badolato…”

“All in all,” McCarthy continues, “Kolfage is alleged to have received over $350,000 and to have spent it on home renovations, boat payments, a luxury SUV, a golf cart, jewelry, cosmetic surgery, personal tax payments, and credit-card debt. More than $1 million is said to have been diverted to Bannon’s Non-Profit-1. Besides paying Kolfage, Bannon is accused of spending donor funds on ‘personal uses and expenses unrelated to We Build the Wall.’ The four defendants collectively received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donor funds, the indictment says, ‘which they each used to pay for a variety of personal expenses, including … travel, hotels, consumer goods, and personal credit card debts.’”

For his part, Bannon pleaded not guilty and asserted, “These charges are nonsense; this is a political hit job. Everybody knows I love a fight. I’m in this for the long haul and I’m in this for the fight.”

Trump responded to the news by declaring that he didn’t like the We Build the Wall nonprofit, as he thought it was “being done for showboating reasons.” He asserted that he has not been involved with Bannon “for a very long period of time.” Recall that Bannon exited the White House in August 2017.

Bannon has long proven himself to be a sleazy character, as evidenced by his dalliance with alt-right groups. As Mark Alexander observed following the infamous Charlottesville protests in 2017, “Bannon did to Andrew [Breitbart]‘s popular website what Jeff Bezos is doing to the once-respectable Washington Post — adulterating its content to comport with extremist political views. Breitbart News described [Richard] Spencer’s website as the 'center of alt-right thought,’ and in 2016, Bannon declared Breitbart ‘the platform for the alt-right.’ Spencer concurred, noting that Breitbart ‘has acted as a "gateway” to alt-right ideas and writers.’“

One final thought: The arrest and charging of Bannon does much to poke holes in the oft-repeated claims by Democrats that Attorney General William Barr is a Trump stooge. Time and again, Barr has proven that he is primarily beholden to the Rule of Law, applying it fairly no matter who may get caught up on the wrong side of it.

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