Feds charge ex-Trump official Steve Bannon with criminal fraud in crowd-funded border wall campaign
Steve Bannon (Photo: Screen capture)

Former Trump White House political strategist Steve Bannon has been charged with criminal fraud for his role in a crowd-funded campaign to build President Donald Trump's wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.


The United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York announced on Thursday that Bannon and several other leaders of the ‘We Build The Wall’ online fundraising campaign have been indicted for defrauding "hundreds of thousands" of donors.

"As alleged, the defendants defrauded hundreds of thousands of donors, capitalizing on their interest in funding a border wall to raise millions of dollars, under the false pretense that all of that money would be spent on construction," said acting SDNY U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss. "While repeatedly assuring donors that Brian Kolfage, the founder and public face of We Build the Wall, would not be paid a cent, the defendants secretly schemed to pass hundreds of thousands of dollars to Kolfage, which he used to fund his lavish lifestyle."

As for Bannon's role in the scheme, SDNY alleges that he funneled "over $1 million from We Build the Wall" into a nonprofit organization that he personally controlled. According to SDNY, Bannon then used at least some of that money "to cover hundreds of thousands of dollars" in his own personal expenses.

In total, Bannon has been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

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On Monday, far-right Arizona state Sen. Wendy Rogers posted an attack on vaccination efforts on Twitter, suggesting that advocates of COVID-19 immunization are Satanic.

"No one should be forced to take the vaccine," wrote Rogers. "The globalists are practicing for the Mark of the Beast."

"Globalists" is a slur with deeply anti-Semitic roots that has been increasingly appropriated by many within the Republican Party, including former President Donald Trump.

Rogers, who has been a key figure in promoting the discredited "audit" of ballots in Maricopa County, has drawn nationwide attention for calling for a do-over of the presidential election, pushing neo-Nazi conspiracy theories about the "Great Replacement" of white people, and sung the praises of Confederate generals.

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The attorney representing several lawyers who are facing sanctions in Michigan for making false claims about voter fraud in the 2020 election is arguing that his clients don't deserve to be sanctioned because they genuinely believed the bogus information they were submitting.

Via Reuters reporter Brad Heath, attorney Donald Campbell argued that his clients, including infamous "kraken" attorney Sidney Powell, did not deliberately mislead courts even though many of the sworn affidavits they filed to make their case were filled with false claims.

Campbell argued that the attorneys could not be sanctioned for submitting bogus claims if they sincerely believed their veracity.

What's more, he added, former President Donald Trump similarly believed that the claims of fraud were really.

"The Attorneys are not the only individuals who viewed these affidavits as evidence of serious fraud," he wrote. "When they filed this case, members of two of the federal government's three branches—including the now former President of the United States—were insisting that there was massive voter fraud... millions of other Americans believed those claims—and believed that their president would not intentionally mislead them."

The letter acknowledged that "attorneys should look beyond their prejudices and political beliefs, and view evidence with a level of professional skepticism" but he added that "no one is immune to confirmation bias."

Read the whole filing here (PDF).

House Republicans will attempt to hold a procedural vote on Monday on the eve of the first hearing by the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol.

"House Republicans will offer a privileged resolution this evening on the floor to demand [Speaker Nancy Pelosi] seat all of [GOP leader Kevin McCarthy's] selections to the Jan. 6 committee," Punchbowl News correspondent Jake Sherman reports.

"Democrats will defeat [it], of course," his colleague John Bresnahan added.

Pelosi denied McCarthy's recommendation of Reps. Jim Banks (R-IN) and Jim Jordan (R-OH) to join the committee, but accepted his recommendations of Reps. Rodney Davis (R-IL), Kelly Armstrong (R-ND) and Troy Nehls (R-TX). In response, McCarthy withdrew all of his recommendations and Pelosi subsequently appointed Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL). Pelosi had previously appointed Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY).

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