Former Trump strategist faces new charges

Steve Bannon, a one-time top strategist to former US president Donald Trump and an architect of his successful 2016 White House run, will surrender to New York authorities to face state charges in a new indictment.

The charges come more than 18 months after Mr Trump pardoned Mr Bannon in the final hours of his presidency, excusing Bannon from a federal fraud case.

Mr Bannon, 68, and three other men were charged in August 2020 with defrauding donors in a private $US25 million ($37 million) fundraising drive, known as “We Build the Wall”, to help build Mr Trump’s signature wall along the US-Mexico border.

Mr Bannon pleaded not guilty to the federal indictment, including to charges he diverted close to $US1 million ($1.5 million) for personal expenses. But his indictment was dismissed after Mr Trump pardoned him.

Mr Bannon’s new indictment is being issued by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

The case may mirror parts of the federal case concerning the wall, though it is unclear because the indictment has not been unsealed yet, a person familiar with the matter said.

Presidential pardons cover federal charges and do not prohibit state prosecutions.

Mr Bannon was expected to appear in a New York state court in Manhattan on Thursday.

He was being charged less than two months after being convicted of contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena from a House of Representatives committee probing the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol.

In a statement earlier this week, Mr Bannon called the New York case “nothing more than a partisan political weaponisation of the criminal justice system”.

The state probe of Mr Bannon began under Mr Bragg’s predecessor Cyrus Vance.

Mr Bragg also inherited Mr Vance’s probe into Trump’s namesake company, the Trump Organisation, which along with long-time chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg was charged with tax violations in July 2021.

Weisselberg pleaded guilty in August to a variety of tax charges and the Trump Organisation faces a trial scheduled to start in October.

mr Bannon would not be the first former Trump ally charged in both federal and state court.

In March 2019, mr Vance brought fraud charges against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort similar to charges on which Mr Manafort was convicted in federal court and jailed for seven and a half years.

But a New York judge dismissed the charges nine months later because they amounted to double jeopardy, or trying someone twice for the same conduct.

Mr Trump pardoned Mr Manafort in December 2020.

Double jeopardy may not apply to the Bannon case because he never went to trial on the federal charges.

The leader of the wall campaign, Brian Kolfage, pleaded guilty in April to wire fraud conspiracy and tax charges and is awaiting sentencing.

Another defendant, Andrew Badolato, also pleaded guilty over the scheme, while a judge in June declared a mistrial in the case of the final defendant, Timothy Shea.

Mr Bannon championed “America First” right-wing populism, including fierce opposition to existing immigration practices, that became hallmarks of Trump’s presidency.

He now runs the popular podcast War Room and hosts guests who deny Mr Trump lost the 2020 election to Joe Biden.


Topics: Donald Trump
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