Steve Bannon among four people indicted in New York for fraud

August 20, 2020 • 9:45 am

Athough Steve Bannon was scheduled to speak here a while back, that never took place, though the University refused to ban him. Now it looks as if he won’t be here for a long while.

Hot off the press (click on screenshot for details):

Bannon, of course, was Trump’s former campaign manager. He and three others face one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Each count carries a maximum of 20 years in prison!

A few details from the report:

Bannon is among four people indicted for allegedly defrauding hundreds of thousands of donors to the online “We Build the Wall” campaign.

Manhattan federal prosecutors allege that Bannon, campaign leader Brian Kolfage, Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea “received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donor funds from We Build the Wall, which they each used in a manner inconsistent with the organization’s public representations.”

“We Build the Wall” began as a GoFundMe campaign in late 2018, designed to raise money directly from the public to build a border wall in the face of Congressional opposition.

While Kolfage publicly guaranteed that he would not take salary or compensation, and that 100 percent of funds raised would go toward the wall, the indictment alleges he actually took more than $350,000 for personal use and took steps to conceal it.

It’s both ironic and horrific that a campaign designed to keep poor immigrants out was actually used to enrich the promoters.

h/t: Ken

66 thoughts on “Steve Bannon among four people indicted in New York for fraud

    1. Exactly.

      The surest sign, that’s so easy to see, a metric that all by itself is enough to judge Trump’s fitness for anything, and that makes one wonder WTAF is wrong with Trump supporters and both-sides-are-bad equivocators, is the people that Trump surrounds himself with. This alone is enough to see that he is either fatally incompetent or thoroughly thuggish.

      1. Well, the main problem is that ‘professional competence’ is not a metric Trump uses when deciding who to hire. It’s sort of irrelevant to him. At best it’s a bonus, like being interested in golf or going to the same wig-maker. At worst it’s actively maladaptive.

        Trump’s hiring policy makes sense if you think of him as operating a kind of pretend-government(the kind of a government a bunch of bored extras would set up on the old West Wing set) – it has to look credible even though it does nothing and knows nothing, and the people he hires have to look successful and confident even though they’re not doing anything either.
        And of course, crucially, everyone has to keep the truth – that it’s all pretend, and no-one’s doing anything, and it’s led by a man who doesn’t have the faintest interest in or knowledge about politics – from getting out. So all his hires have to be consummate performers and liars. Conmen and women basically.

        In that context ‘professional competence’ becomes not just unnecessary but a sign that the potential employee is probably not going to fit in.

  1. Completely unsurprising (at least to me). Anyone thinking that “100 percent” promise could be real is a fool – even good honest charities have operational and overhead costs.

    Second, you’d have to be somewhat naive (though the subject is a bit esoteric) to think it would be easy to collect private funds and somehow insert them into a federal (DHS) construction project budget. The whole point of Congressional control of the budget is that departments are not allowed to spend more (and not supposed to spend less!) than what Congress gives them.

  2. Interesting timing what with the R’s convention nxt wk. Coincidence? Maybe. But I hold out the probably lunatic hope that they may be moving to dump the Dolt.

  3. Clearly not as clever as he thinks he is. Nor as clever as the many people in the media built him up to be.

    I look at the resumes of people like him and Dominic Cummings in the UK(his evil twin, if people who are already evil can have evil twins) and see nothing but destruction. They have been hired to destroy, tear down, criticise, smear. That’s all they’ve really done. It’s no surprise that they turn out to be utterly useless at doing anything politically constructive.

  4. Ironic and horrific, perhaps, but not in the least bit surprising. The Republican ecosystem is pretty much built on grifting.

    1. Ironic and horrific indeed – if found to be true.

      While it wouldn’t surprise me if the accused were found guilty it would surprise me if they were the only people in the political class that committed such crimes. On both sides.

      1. That strikes me as a strange argument to make, given that it’s not based on any news or evidence. It’s just saying ‘other people do bad things too’ isn’t it?

        1. “On both sides” is the standard response one hears every time a grifter, be it religious or political, is caught. Fact of the matter is that there are a whole heck of a lot more of these guys operating in religious and right-wing circles than there are on “the other side”, although they can also be found there from time to time.

        2. Nope. I chose not to name names because I didn’t want to get into a ‘my villains are not as bad as your villains’ debate – that’s an easy debate to ‘win’ whether it’s true or not.

          But as long as any of us choose only to consume news from within ‘our bubble’ then the confirmation bias will reinforce ‘my lot are better than your lot’. Maybe yes, maybe no.

          1. “Nope. I chose not to name names because I didn’t want to get into a ‘my villains are not as bad as your villains’ debate ”

            But you got into that debate anyway. No offence, but it seems a bit like you want to have your cake and eat it: ie. make an evidentially empty claim of equivalence between the two sides, but then back off when someone points out that this is what you’re doing.

            1. No. I’m trying to point out that ‘absence of published evidence of my guys doing bad things’ is not the same as there being no bad things done.

              Are the Republicans worse than the Democrats? Quite possibly – but unless you have full disclosure of evidence (and the MSM are partial to what is reported) nobody knows for certain.

              And if you must have names… the Durham investigation has issued its first indictment against FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith and he has pleaded guilty. Clinesmith acknowledged he altered an email from the CIA to the FBI, answering a question about Carter Page. The answer mattered because the FBI and Department of Justice were preparing warrants to spy on Page as a hostile foreign agent.

              Does this matter? Perhaps. Outright criminality is relatively easy to tackle, and should be tackled. More subtle corruption takes much longer to prove, and is often overtaken by other interests. Yet corruption is far more corrosive for democracy than criminal activities.

              1. I think Darrelle thoroughly debunks the notion that both sides are(anywhere near) as bad as each other downthread. As if it needed debunking after four years of Trump.

              2. “Notably, the statute to which Clinesmith will plead guilty is the same statute to which Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn twice pleaded guilty in federal court. Yet while many of Flynn’s supporters—the president among them—have defended Flynn by arguing that his lies were not material, this chorus has not lifted its collective voice on behalf of Clinesmith.”


              3. Mueller deputy Weissmann criticizes DOJ for bringing case against ex-FBI lawyer

                “Question for [U.S. Attorney General William Barr]: how are [former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s] confessed lies to the FBI (repeated to the VP) not a crime, but Clinesmith changing an email (the full version of which he also sent to DOJ) is?” Weissmann tweeted, referencing the Justice Department’s controversial move to withdraw its case against Flynn, who had already pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

                Weissmann later asserted that there were “two systems of justice at play.”


            2. “Yet corruption is far more corrosive for democracy than criminal activities.”

              It takes a special form of nearsightedness to think that corruption and criminality are somehow unrelated phenomena.

          2. The closest I can think of would be Hillary Clinton and her Clinton Foundation while being the Sec. of State. I don’t remember much detail surrounding that, but don’t recall thinking there was anything really problematical. Certainly not by todays’ standards.

          3. What about some facts? Since the Nixon administration, a bit longer than all of my adult life, Republican administrations have racked up criminal indictments on 142 people while Democratic administrations have racked up 2.

            On the Democratic side that number is up to date and not disputed. On the Republican side, that number is not quite up to date and it is disputed. Many people put the number much higher. The 142 number is conservative erring on the side of caution. For example, it doesn’t include all of the foreign nationals and foreign entities indicted in connection with the Mueller investigation and similar.

            Now, one could argue, and some do, that the Democrats, led by the evil Clintons, are so powerful that they control everything and that’s why they have so few indictments. But we all know that that is actually opposite from the facts. Right? I mean we all do understand that for most of that time that Republicans had the upper hand, had the ability to thwart Democratic legislation? That the federal enforcement agencies have all leaned decisively Republican since, well, forever? Or at least our life times.

            Degrees matter. False equivalency is false. The DP is nowhere near the level of scumbaggery of the RP and that’s been very evident since at least Bush Jr. if not earlier.

            1. Excellent comment. The contrast between the criminality of the Obama administration versus the Trump administration is especially clear. And Obama was basically a lame duck for much of his time in office, with Congress solidly against him, so no one can say the difference is due to government bias.

              1. I’d suggest rephrasing from:

                The contrast between the criminality of the Obama administration versus the Trump administration…


                The contrast between the the criminality of the Trump administration versus Obama administration…

                Sounds more fair and balanced. 😀

  5. Look for Donald Trump to do two things: First, to say he barely knew Steve Bannon; second, to start dangling a pardon by saying Bannon is a good guy, not some kind of “flipper” like a common Michael Cohen.

    Bannon’s indictment alleges a cool $25 million was raised as part of a scam to build a bogus border wall. According to my quick, back-of-the envelope calculation of his federal sentencing guidelines’ exposure, if Bannon gets tagged with the full $25M as the “intended loss” from the fraud, and with a couple other applicable guidelines’ enhancements (such as “more than 10 victims,” misuse of “a political or charitable organization,” and use of “sophisticated means” to commit the fraud), after a trial he could be facing in the range of 15 to 18 years in the slam.

    1. Look for Donald Trump to do two things: First, to say he barely knew Steve Bannon; second, to start dangling a pardon

      Since it’s a federal DoJ case, couldn’t Barr just shut it down? I’ll assume ‘no’ because if he could, he would’ve stopped them even issuing the indictment. But I’m curious as to your opinion on what sort of legal authority he could have over the case.

      1. Too late now that the cat’s outta the bag, especially this close to an election.

        Makes one wonder whether this had something to do with the move Trump and Barr made two months ago against Geoff Berman, the Trump-appointed US Attorney for the SDNY — a move Berman foiled by refusing to resign, thus ensuring that his trustworthy assistant was named as his temporary successor, rather than the handpicked lackey Trump and Barr wanted to put in that office.

        1. Thanks.

          I don’t hold out much hope they’ll see jail time. Regardless of the election outcome Trump will keep his pardon power until the end of January, and can issue it preemptively if the case goes longer than that. Though if he loses, maybe he won’t see any transactional value in helping them and so won’t bother. God, even writing that sounds horrible (…but true).

          1. “Though if he loses, maybe he won’t see any transactional value in helping them and so won’t bother.”

            The transactional value would be that they keep their mouths shut when Trump is indicted and prosecuted. That’s tricky, because if they are under no threat of prosecution (because of Trump’s pardon), they they can’t claim the protections of the Fifth Amendment. Which means that they could be charged with contempt–a separate crime for which Trump could not preemptively pardon them.

            I don’t know how serious a threat that is (I don’t do criminal law), but theoretically it’s something to consider.

            1. Yes, it would eliminate the first horn of what’s called the “cruel trilemma” — self-incrimination, perjury, or contempt of court.

              Since they couldn’t “take five,” they’d have no choice but to testify truthfully, on pain of prosecution for perjury or contempt.

              No pardon is possible for future crimes, including perjury. Nor would a pardon apply to contempt since it’s a civil remedy, one for which, as the saying goes, the contemnor has the keys to the jailhouse door in his own pocket, inasmuch as he can purge the contempt merely by satisfying his duty to testify in court.

      1. tRumpies have learned they can act with impunity, what with the pardon dangled out there like a carrot over an ass. What more is in store for us before DT himself in in the slammer.

      2. I’m pretty sure that, if he loses, Trump will issue blanket pardons during the lame-duck session between the election and Inauguration Day, for himself and his family, for sure, and likely for anybody else that’s in a position to hurt him.

        Problem for Bannon (and several of the others) is that there are parallel New York State laws prohibiting fraud, and I suspect Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance, Jr., might well pick up the cases in the event of federal pardons.

        A presidential pardon is feckless as against prosecutions brought under state law.

        1. Please could you please explain how the President’s pardon powers work? Can he pardon someone for a crime which they have been charged with but not yet convicted? What about crimes they haven’t yet been charged with? Or crimes they haven’t yet committed?

          1. A pardon can extend to all past crimes, whether those crimes are the subject of any current investigation or prosecution or not. This is precisely the type of pardon Gerald Ford granted Richard Nixon.

            A pardon cannot include future crimes. Otherwise, the likes of Donald Trump could spend the rest of his miserable post-presidency existence gunning down his enemies (along with whatever person on Fifth Avenue he’s bragged his base wouldn’t care if he shot).

  6. According to the BBC, the We Build the Wall campaign raised $25m (£19m) of which “Bannon received more than $1m, at least some of which he used to cover personal expenses, the DoJ said.”

  7. Here that sound like a glacier calving?

    That’s Jared Kushner’s asshole puckering. I suspect Bannon knows where the bodies are buried regarding Jared’s mysterious meeting with the Sergey Gorkov, the Russian money-launderer/oligarch/intelligence officer/organized-crime figure/Putin buddy during the Trump transition period seeking a private back-channel with the Russians, and regarding Kushner’e relationships with Saudi Arabia’s MbS and Abu Dhabi’s MbZ and the mysterious $1.4 billion loan from a Qatar-backed lender (following the US-endorsed blockade of Qatar by SA and the UAE) that bailed the Kushner family out of its white-elephant 666 building on Fifth Avenue.

    1. Trump is just not having a good day. Good people on both sides – of the border but apparently not at the white house. I thought Mexico was paying for the wall?

    2. To add to the Donald’s recent woes, a couple days ago, the Republican-controlled US senate intelligence committee released its final report regarding Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election.

      The report details that quondam Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s man in Ukraine, Konstantin Kilimnik — with whom Manafort shared Trump campaign internal polling data, including data regarding the three rust-belt states Trump won by a combined total of under 78,000 votes — is a Russian intelligence agent, that Trump lied in his written answers to the special counsel’s office when he denied having conversations with Roger Stone regarding the timing of WikiLeaks’ releases, and that Vladimir Putin may well have kompromat on Trump regarding Trump’s relationships with Russian women during Trump’s trips to Moscow before he ran for the US presidency.

  8. Well, as the Tangerine Toddler himself said: “”When the GOP sends its people, they’re not sending their best. … They’re sending people that have lots of problems…”

    Did I get that right?

  9. Since 1969, Republican presidential administrations have 121 criminal indictments and 89 convictions, while Democrats have had 3 and 1

    1. Do you have citations for that? I would love to use those figures, but try to always include citations for things like that.

  10. On January 2019, Kris Kobach told the New York Times that President Trump had given his blessing to an effort to build a private wall along the border with Mexico. The organizers of the project are now facing federal fraud charges.

    Kobach, a former Kansas secretary of state and prominent Trump supporter, was serving as an adviser to “We Build the Wall,” the group that raised more than $25 million to build the wall. “I talked with the president, and the ‘We Build the Wall Effort’ came up,” Kobach told the Times. “The president said ‘the project has my blessing, and you can tell the media that.’”

    1. I just read that bit a few minutes ago. Poor old Kobach spilled the beans on this one. And Trump had no idea… Old Kobach is kind of out of jobs right now since he lost out in the Senate primaries in Kansas.

  11. In not entirely unrelated news, a politician from Germany’s right wing loon party, the AfD, refused to wear a mask on an intercity train, so the conductor called the police and he locked himself in the toilet for nearly an hour. He was tweeting triumphantly about it, but now “Zugtoilette” is trending on twitter in Germany, and people are laughing at him.

  12. The pardon documents are probably being drafted as we speak.

    The easiest way for Trump to pardon himself – if he is not reelected – is to resign from office the day before his term ends. Pence would become our 46th president (albeit for a day) and pardon Trump and his entire entourage before Biden is sworn in. If Trump is reelected, the statute of limitations would run on most if not all of his crimes.

    They could face state charges, as has been pointed out. But don’t hold your breath for any convictions. It would take extraordinary luck to empanel a state jury without any Trump supporters on the panel, even in New York. All it takes is one to nullify a jury.

    Manafort was convicted of only 8 of the 18 counts he was charged with, thanks to one juror holdout. One of the interesting back stories I would like to know someday is how the jury panel convinced that holdout to convict Manafort on the 8 counts. I suspect that if the jury had hung on all 18 counts, the Mueller investigation would have been halted before any retrial.

    As I have said to friends many times, Trump is a criminal and political genius. A very bad combination.

  13. I didn’t know him. He was only with the Whitehouse for a short period. I think I only met him on a couple of occasions. I never really thought much of him, he was a bit light weight.

    His suicide in jail is such a tragedy, although some are saying….

    (whisper whisper)

    … what do you mean you haven’t done it yet?

  14. I keep thinking about how Warren G Harding was quite popular at the time of his death – Teapot Dome wasn’t known until after his demise.

    What more will we learn once O9 is gone?

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