Just one day after his arrest, President Donald Trump’s former adviser Steve Bannon is vowing to fight fraud and money laundering charges tied to a fundraising campaign that claimed to support the building of the Trump administration’s Southern border wall.
“This fiasco is a total political hit job,” Bannon said Friday on his conservative podcast, “War Room,” insisting that he would not “back down” amid pressure.
“I’m in this for the long-haul. I’m in this for the fight,” Bannon said. “I’m going to continue to fight.”
Bannon was charged Thursday for allegedly using $1 million donated to an online crowdfunding campaign called We Build the Wall for personal expenses, among other things.
The former Trump adviser insisted on his podcast Friday that his arrest was an attempt to “stop and intimidate people” who have supported the Trump administration’s effort to build a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border and who, as he put it, “have Trump’s back.”
Bannon described another of the three defendants in the case, Brian Kolfage, as “an American hero.” Bannon had featured Kolfage on his show the day before his arrest. According to the indictment, Kolfage, who was also involved in the alleged scheme, had falsely promised donors that the campaign would use all of its more than $25 million in contributions to help construct the border wall.
Prosecutors have said that Kolfage instead used more than $350,000 from We Build the Wall “for his personal use.”
Bannon was also charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. He pleaded not guilty to the charges, and said Friday on his podcast that the charges were “nonsense.”
President Trump distanced himself from Bannon and the allegedly fraudulent fundraising campaign when pressed by reporters on the issue at the White House on Thursday afternoon, saying he hasn’t been “dealing” with his former adviser “at all.” The President also claimed that he was unaware that Bannon was in charge and was unfamiliar with Bannon’s associates on the project which he said he “didn’t like.”
But in a New York Times interview in January 2019, then- Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) said President Trump gave the We Build The Wall effort his “blessing” in a phone call, apparently telling Kobach “the project has my blessing, and you can tell the media that.”