Monday, 28 Sep 2020

Former Trump adviser Stephen Bannon charged with fraud over border wall fund-raising

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) – Stephen Bannon, one of the architects of Mr Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, was arrested over his involvement in an online fund-raising group that raised more than US$25 million (S$34 million) to help fund a wall on the US-Mexico border.

Despite portraying We Build the Wall as a volunteer organisation, Bannon received more than US$1 million from the group, some of which was used to pay for his personal expenses, prosecutors said. 

He is expected to appear in a New York court on Thursday (Aug 20). Three others were also charged in the matter, including the group’s founder, Brian Kolfage.

“As alleged, the defendants defrauded hundreds of thousands of donors, capitalising on their interest in funding a border wall to raise millions of dollars under the false pretence that all of that money would be spent on construction,” US Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a press release on Thursday.

Bannon, 66, served as the chief executive of Mr Trump’s presidential campaign and was the ideological architect of his populist vision. 

The former leader of Breitbart News helped Mr Trump grow his appeal among the far right – often prompting accusations of racism and conspiracy mongering – and in the White House was a leading proponent of the administration’s efforts to ban travel from a group of Muslim-majority countries.

But Bannon’s tenure in the administration was a rocky one. 

Opponents accused him of leaking frequently to the media and rushing haphazard efforts to root out “deep state” opponents of the administration, while coverage suggesting that he was leveraging outsize influence to manipulate the President quickly drew Mr Trump’s ire.

Bannon was ousted just seven months into his role amid the firestorm over Mr Trump’s handling of the violence that erupted surrounding white supremacist protests in Charlottesville. 

Bannon applauded Mr Trump’s strategy to voice support for some of the demonstrators protesting the removal of Confederate statutes who marched with individuals chanting Nazi slogans.

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