Steve Bannon, unapologetic conservative firebrand and former advisor and campaign manager to President Donald Trump, was arrested last week as part of his associated with the “Build The Wall” fundraising effort. He and three others have been charged with one count of money laundering and one count of wire fraud.
Bannon was arrested on Thursday, August 20. He was taken by a group of federal law enforcement officials that included members of the U.S. Postal Service and charged with wire fraud and defrauding donors of the “Build the Wall” campaign.
At the time of his arrest, Bannon was on a yacht owned by Chinese dissident Gau Wengui. The yacht was off the coast of Connecticut.
The arrest stems from Bannon’s involvement in the “Build the Wall” campaign, which was a GoFundMe effort to raise money to build Trump’s border wall. The campaign, run by Bannon and others, was supposedly attempting to raise money from members of the general population under the guise that it would be used to fund the construction of the controversial border wall, one of President Trump’s key policy goals. However, according to the indictment, Bannon and his co-defendants used that money for a variety of other uses, including to cover personal expenses.
According to the indictment, Bannon and others started this campaign, promising that all donations would go directly towards the construction of a border wall. Indeed, they explicitly stated that all expenses would go towards the construction of a border wall. The campaign was wildly successful, ultimately raising over $25 million.
However, according to prosecutors, more than $350,000 was actually spent on a variety of personal expenses for Bannon and the others arrested. This included cars, boat payments, cosmetic surgery, tax payments, jewelry and more. Furthermore, prosecutors say that Bannon came to an agreement to pay Kolfage $100,000 upfront and then $20,000 on a monthly basis. However, Bannon attempted to keep those payments secret by funneling them through a non-profit under his control.
Bannon was released after making bail of $5 million. Upon his release, Bannon spoke with members of the press and supporters, saying that his arrest was part of an effort to stop volunteers like himself from building Trump’s wall.
Bannon was not the only one arrested as part of this operation. Also arrested were: Brian Kolfage, an Air Force veteran; Andrew Badolato, a financer; and Timothy Shea.
Bannon has a long history of being tied with President Trump. In 2016, he was the chief executive officer of his Presidential campaign, where his leadership was credited with having helped deliver Trump to the White House. After Trump’s election, Bannon was appointed as an advisor in the Trump White House. He later left after repeated clashes with Trump and his family, but the President has supposedly stayed in touch with Bannon.
Bannon’s earlier career is a long and controversial one. He helped found Breibart News, an arch-conservative website that is known for promulgating pro-Trump news stories and other conspiracy theories. He is closely tied with a wide array of extreme right-wing groups, including some white nationalists, and has repeatedly encouraged Trump to veer to the right in the course of political debates.
The President weighed in on the arrest, saying that he felt “very badly” about the charges. He also attempted to downplay the connection between him and Bannon, saying Bannon played a “very small” part in his administration. While the President has said he had nothing to do with the “Build the Wall” campaign, many of his allies were engaged in its efforts and encouraged them.