WASHINGTON (NewsNation) — Steve Bannon, a onetime political advisor to former President Donald Trump, surrendered Thursday in New York to face money laundering and conspiracy charges alleging that he duped donors who gave money to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. He’s scheduled to be arraigned Thursday afternoon.
Prosecutors say that while Bannon promised donors all the money they gave would go to building the wall, he was involved in funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars to two other people involved in the scheme. The indictment didn’t identify those people by name, but the details match those of Brian Kolfage and Andrew Badolato, who pleaded guilty to federal charges in April.
The state-level charges come more than 1-1/2 years after Trump pardoned Bannon in the final hours of his presidency, excusing Bannon from a federal fraud case.
The 68-year-old arrived at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office shortly after 9 a.m. Thursday.
“This is an irony,” Bannon told reporters as he entered the building.
“On the very day the mayor of this city has a delegation down on the border, they are persecuting people here, that try to stop them at the border,” he said, referring to a recent trip by New York City officials to Texas.
“This is all about 60 days from the day,” he said, referring to the upcoming national election in November.
Bannon and three other men had been charged in August 2020 with defrauding donors in a private $25 million fundraising drive, known as “We Build the Wall,” to help build Trump’s signature wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. However, some of the money was used to finance about a three-mile stretch of the wall.
While the wall Bannon’s group proposed was to be built on the U.S. southern border, more than 1,000 miles from the Big Apple, Manhattan prosecutors have jurisdiction to pursue charges against Bannon because some donors to the effort lived in New York.
The case may mirror parts of the federal case concerning the wall, though it is unclear because the indictment has not been unsealed yet.
In an earlier, written statement, Bannon accused Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg of pursuing “phony charges” against him ahead of the midterm election, saying the Democratic prosecutor targeted him because Bannon and his radio show are popular among Trump’s Republican supporters.
Bragg and New York Attorney General Letitia James planned a 1 p.m. news conference to discuss the charges against Bannon.
Bannon pleaded not guilty to the federal indictment, including to charges he diverted close to $1 million for personal expenses including his credit card bill, jewelry, and golf equipment. The federal case was dismissed when Trump pardoned him.
In Bannon’s state-level case, any double jeopardy argument would likely fall flat because his federal case didn’t involve an acquittal or conviction. Presidential pardons apply only to federal crimes, not state offenses.
Two other men involved in the “We Build the Wall” project pleaded guilty in April. They had been scheduled to be sentenced this week, but that was recently postponed to December.
A third defendant’s trial ended in a mistrial in June after jurors said they could not reach a unanimous verdict.