Steve Bannon, the rightwing figure who previously served as President Donald Trump’s White House chief strategist, was indicted Thursday by federal prosecutors in New York.
Bannon and three others have been charged with defrauding people who donated to the viral “We Build the Wall” campaign on GoFundMe. CNN’s Jim Sciutto reported that Bannon has been arrested.
Breaking: Federal prosecutors have charged Steve Bannon and three others with defrauding donors of hundreds of thousands of dollars in a border wall fundraising campaign.
Bannon has been arrested, according to a spokesman for the US attorney’s office.
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) August 20, 2020
Prosectors allege in the indictment that despite assuring donors that Brian Kolfage — the founder and public face of We Build the Wall — would not receive a cent, the defendants secretly worked to funnel thousands of dollars to Kolfage to support a “lavish lifestyle.”
“The defendants allegedly engaged in fraud when they misrepresented the true use of donated funds,” Inspector-in-Charge Philip R. Bartlett said in a statement. “As alleged, not only did they lie to donors, they schemed to hide their misappropriation of funds by creating sham invoices and accounts to launder donations and cover up their crimes, showing no regard for the law or the truth. This case should serve as a warning to other fraudsters that no one is above the law, not even a disabled war veteran or a millionaire political strategist.”
NBC News previously reported in January on some of the shadowy elements of the GoFundMe campaign, noting that it appeared to be an effort to harvest emails. Also in January, GoFundMe offered to refund anyone who had donated to the campaign. Mashable has reached out to GoFundMe about the indictments.
Bannon was taken into custody by agents from the U.S. Postal Service on Thursday morning.
From CBS’ Pat Milton: Steve Bannon was taken into custody today by US Postal Service agents. He’s expected to be arraigned today before a US magistrate. @SDNYnews alleges he had a role in defrauding donors as part of an online crowdfunding campaign known as “We Build the Wall”
— Margaret Brennan (@margbrennan) August 20, 2020
For years, Bannon headed up Breitbart, the far-right media organization that backed Trump. Bannon then jumped on to lead Trump’s campaign just a few months away from the election, helping him secure the presidency. Bannon has fashioned himself as a rightwing intellectual and reportedly had plans to push Trump to reshape the globe via nationalist ideals. He was, however, ultimately ousted from the White House after repeated clashes with Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.
But Bannon’s influence still permeates the administration. For example, his ally, Michael Pack, was in June confirmed as the new new CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which oversees the state-run outlets Voice of America, Middle East Broadcasting, Radio Free Asia, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and the Open Technology Fund.
“We are going hard on the charge,” Bannon told Vox at the time. “Pack’s over there to clean house.”
This story is developing…