Bannon surrenders to New York authorities for money laundering : NPR

Steve Bannon, former adviser to then-President Donald Trump, arrives at the New York District Attorney’s Office for surrender on September 08, 2022 in New York City. Bannon faces a criminal charge that mirrors the federal case for which he was pardoned by Trump.

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Steve Bannon, former adviser to then-President Donald Trump, arrives at the New York District Attorney’s Office for surrender on September 08, 2022 in New York City. Bannon faces a criminal charge that mirrors the federal case for which he was pardoned by Trump.

David Dee Delgado/Getty Images

NEW YORK, NY – Steve Bannon, who led Donald Trump’s successful 2016 presidential campaign and served his administration as a White House adviser, surrendered Thursday morning to New York state officials to laundering money by embezzling funds donated to the We Build the Wall organization.

The organization, launched in 2018, has raised more than $25 million after pledging to help build a wall on the US-Mexico border to curb illegal immigration.

“There can’t be one set of rules for ordinary people and another for the rich and powerful,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said Thursday. “We all have to play by the same rules and obey the law. Mr. Bannon took advantage of his donors’ political views to get millions of dollars which he then embezzled. Mr. Bannon lied to his donors to get rich and enrich his friends.”

Bannon was charged with two counts of money laundering and one count of conspiracy.

The charges were brought by James and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

In a statement late Tuesday, Bannon described the state-level prosecutions as part of a broader “militarization of the criminal justice system” against conservatives.

Bannon claimed the criminal charges were part of an effort to silence him ahead of the midterm elections.

“I haven’t started fighting yet,” Bannon said. “They’ll have to kill me first.”

The indictment closely follows a case brought against Bannon in 2020 by the US Department of Justice. In that case, two of Bannon’s co-defendants have pleaded guilty and a third has been quashed and could be retried.

Bannon pleaded not guilty but was never tried because President Trump pardoned him on his last day in office. The White House said at the time: “Mr. Bannon was an important leader of the conservative movement and is known for his political acumen.”

The following month, The Washington Post reported that the Manhattan District Attorney had begun investigating whether Bannon could be charged under state law.

The then-president’s pardon only covers federal crimes, not the state crimes that Bannon is now charged with.

Bannon’s attorneys could argue that the charges should be dismissed under New York’s double jeopardy law.

Paul Manafort, another Trump adviser, successfully argued for the dismissal of charges against him by the state in 2019. But, unlike Bannon, Manafort had been tried and convicted in federal court before being charged with New York. Like Bannon, Manafort was pardoned by Trump in the final month of his presidency.

Before joining the Trump campaign in 2016, Bannon rose to prominence as an executive at Breitbart, a right-wing website.

District Attorney Bragg and Attorney General James have experience monitoring Trump and his connections. They cooperated with an investigation that resulted in tax evasion and conspiracy charges against the Trump Organization and its former chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, in 2021. Weisselberg pleaded guilty.

The Trump Organization is set to go on trial starting in October.

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