Federal prosecutors have seized “voluminous” amounts of information in the We Build The Wall case against Steve Bannon, Brian Kolfage and two others, telling a federal judge on Monday that the government has been executing search warrants through August.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Alison Moe said at Monday’s hearing that the feds had executed search warrants on electronic devices in July and August, and were still in the process of gaining access to the email accounts within.
The disclosure comes after Manhattan federal prosecutors charged Bannon, Kolfage, and two others with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering over an alleged scheme to siphon money out of a project to raise private donations to build a wall along the southern border.
Bannon pleaded not guilty to the charges in an Aug. 20 arraignment. Kolfage and the two other defendants — Timothy Shea and Andrew Badolato — also entered pleas of not guilty at Monday’s hearing, held remotely before U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres for the Southern District of New York.
Moe said that prosecutors had obtained a search warrant for email accounts in the case in January 2020, and agreed to produce an initial “wave” of evidence by September 29.
Running to the teacher
Brian Kolfage took the opportunity at the Monday hearing to air out a dispute with federal prosecutors over his aggressive social media posts, which prosecutors flagged in a letter to the court Friday.
Among other things, Kolfage has accused prosecutors of wanting to seize We Build The Wall donors’ information and target them for political purposes.
“That deeply concerned the government,” Moe said Monday, stressing that prosecutors weren’t yet asking for a gag order, merely that Judge Torres remind Kolfage of the court’s rule against statements that could bias a jury pool, which she did on Monday.
But Kolfage’s attorney Harvey Steinberg wasn’t going to let the government have the last word: In a several-minute statement, he accused prosecutors of breaking the same rule by referring to Kolfage as a “fraudster” who was living a “lavish” lifestyle in a press release announcing the charges against the We Build The Wall leader.
“It reminds me of the bully who picks on, if you will, the person he perceives to be the weakest — and then when the weakest hits him back, he runs to the teacher,” Steinberg said, referring to the prosecutors’ letter to the court.
Kolfage referenced the DOJ press release in a Facebook message to TPM Friday. Projecting his lawyer’s moves, he said, “Someone is going to get ripped Monday and it won’t be me.”
Torres didn’t “rip” anyone. Instead she said that both sides understood court’s rule, and that “My expectation is that there will not be violations of the rule.”
“If I have to hold an additional proceeding to determine whether the rules have been violated, well, we shall see,” she added.
One morsel left over from Bannon’s Aug. 20 arraignment was the question of a potential conflict of interest in the case. Prosecutors had said that they were concerned by a conflict present in Bannon’s legal team, helmed by former Bush White House official Bill Burck of Quinn Emanuel.
On Monday, Moe said that the law firm had represented We Build The Wall last year, creating a potential conflict in its representation of Bannon.
Burck downplayed the issue, saying that a partner and associate at the firm had spent a combined “fourteen hours” on a project for We Build the Wall last fall. It wasn’t clear what the nature of the project was.
Judge Torres set a preliminary trial date in the case for May 24, 2021.