Steve Bannon, former Trump adviser, pleads not responsible in border wall scheme By Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Former U.S. President Donald Trump’s White Home chief strategist Steve Bannon gestures as he departs after he was discovered responsible throughout his trial on contempt of Congress costs for his refusal to cooperate with the U.S. Home Choose Committee

By Karen Freifeld

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Steve Bannon, the onetime prime strategist to former U.S. President Donald Trump, pleaded not responsible on Thursday to cash laundering and conspiracy costs for allegedly deceiving donors to an effort to assist Trump construct a wall alongside the U.S.-Mexico border.

Bannon, 68, was handcuffed when he got here right into a New York state court docket in Manhattan. He was launched with out bail after his lawyer David Schoen entered the plea on his behalf.

Prosecutors accused Bannon of defrauding donors who contributed greater than $15 million to a non-public fundraising drive, often called “We Construct the Wall,” for the previous Republican president’s signature wall.

In line with the indictment, Bannon promised donors that each one their cash would go towards the wall, however hid his position in diverting tons of of 1000’s of {dollars} to the drive’s chief govt, who had promised to take no wage.

The chief govt has been recognized in court docket papers as Brian Kolfage, an Air Power veteran who pleaded responsible in April to federal wire fraud conspiracy and tax costs, and is awaiting sentencing.

“It’s a crime to revenue off the backs of donors by making false pretenses,” Manhattan District Lawyer Alvin Bragg mentioned at a joint press convention with New York Lawyer Normal Letitia James, who labored with him on the probe.

Bannon was charged with two counts of cash laundering, three counts of conspiracy and one depend of scheming to defraud.

If convicted, he might withstand 15 years in jail for cash laundering, although jail shouldn’t be necessary.

Thursday’s indictment considerations a number of the conduct underlying an August 2020 federal prosecution of Bannon, Kolfage and two different males.

Bannon pleaded not responsible in that case, which ended abruptly in January 2021 when Trump pardoned him within the closing hours of his presidency.

Presidential pardons don’t prohibit state prosecutions.

“In New York, we have now zero tolerance for corruption,” James mentioned. “There can’t be one algorithm for on a regular basis People and one other algorithm for the rich and highly effective.”

James and Bragg, each Democrats, have additionally been investigating Trump and his companies.

After being launched, Bannon informed reporters outdoors the courthouse that the fees had been politically motivated, noting they got here two months earlier than the November elections.

“I’ve received information for them,” he mentioned, referring to prosecutors. “We’re going to win a sweeping landslide at each stage, from college boards to election officers… We aren’t going to again down and so they won’t be able to close me up.”

Bannon’s lawyer Schoen stood by his aspect and referred to as the fees a “carbon copy” of the federal case, and mentioned Bannon would combat “during.”

Bannon’s subsequent court docket look was scheduled for Oct. 4.

PROBES TIED TO TRUMP

Thursday’s indictment consists of a number of communications from 2019 involving Bannon, Kolfage and Andrew Badolato, who additionally pleaded responsible in April within the federal case, the place prosecutors estimated $25 million in fundraising contributions.

The indictment mentioned Bannon texted in January 2019 that there can be “o offers I do not approve; and I pay [Kolfage] so what’s to fret.”

His message was totally different 5 months later, based on the indictment, when he informed potential donors at a fundraiser: “Keep in mind, all the cash you give goes to constructing the wall.”

Legal professionals for Kolfage and Badolato didn’t instantly reply to requests for remark. A trial of the fourth defendant within the federal case, Timothy Shea, resulted in a mistrial.

The state probe of Bannon started underneath Bragg’s predecessor Cyrus Vance.

Bragg additionally inherited Vance’s probe into Trump’s firm, the Trump Group, which together with longtime Chief Monetary Officer Allen Weisselberg was charged with tax violations in July 2021.

Weisselberg pleaded responsible in August, and the Trump Group faces a scheduled October trial.

Bannon shouldn’t be the primary Trump ally charged in federal and state court docket.

In March 2019, Vance introduced fraud costs towards former Trump marketing campaign chairman Paul Manafort that had been just like federal costs on which Manafort had been convicted and sentenced to 7-1/2 years in jail.

However a New York decide dismissed the state costs 9 months later as a result of they amounted to double jeopardy.

Trump pardoned Manafort in December 2020.

Double jeopardy could not apply to the Bannon case as a result of he by no means went to trial on the federal costs.

Bannon, a longtime Trump ally, champions “America First” right-wing populism and fierce opposition to current immigration practices, hallmarks of Trump’s presidency.

He now runs the podcast “Struggle Room” and sometimes hosts visitors who deny that President Joe Biden received the 2020 election.

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