Steve Bannon charged with defrauding border-wall donors

Steve Bannon

Washington: Steve Bannon, an architect of President Donald Trump’s 2016 election victory, has been charged with defrauding Trump supporters in a campaign to help build his signature wall along the US-Mexico border, prosecutors said on Thursday.

As a top adviser to Trump`s presidential campaign who later served as White House chief strategist, Bannon helped articulate the right-wing populism and fierce opposition to immigration that have helped define Trump`s 3-1/2 years in office. Trump fired Bannon in August 2017.

Bannon was among four people arrested on Thursday and charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering in an indictment secured by federal prosecutors in Manhattan.

Prosecutors accused the defendants of defrauding hundreds of thousands of donors through a $25 million crowdfunding campaign called “We Build the Wall,” the Justice Department said. They each face up to 40 years in prison.

Prosecutors said Bannon received more than $1 million of that money through an unnamed nonprofit organization. Bannon heads a nonprofit organization called Citizens of the American Public that received more than $4.4 million in contributions in 2018, government filings show.

The famously disheveled entrepreneur and activist headed the right-wing Breitbart News before running Trump`s campaign. He later returned to that job, but quit after angering Trump. He has also tried to promote a variety of right-wing causes and candidates in the United States and abroad.

“I feel very badly. I haven’t been dealing with him for a long time,” Trump told reporters at the White House. Trump said he did not know much about the project.

Bannon represents the latest close Trump associate to face criminal charges, a list that also includes former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, longtime friend and adviser Roger Stone, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign deputy chairman Rick Gates. Trump last month commuted Stone`s prison sentence, using his power of executive clemency to benefit a political ally.