Steve Bannon, the rightwing activist who ran Donald Trump’s successful 2016 presidential campaign, has been indicted on three criminal counts stemming from an alleged fundraising fraud.
Bannon, dressed in his trademark layers of black upon black, surrendered to authorities in lower Manhattan on Thursday morning and was set to be arraigned later in the day.
In a six-count indictment, Bannon is accused of money laundering, fraud and conspiracy for his involvement with WeBuildtheWall Inc, an online campaign that raised more than $15mn to erect a wall on the US southern border with Mexico.
According to the indictment, the organisation, which Bannon chaired, diverted hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to an associate in spite of public promises that all money would be devoted to the project.
The co-founder of WeBuildtheWall, a veteran who had lost both legs in Iraq and became a sort of folk hero for anti-immigration advocates, pleaded guilty in April to federal charges for pocketing hundreds of thousands of dollars in the scheme.
Bannon pleaded not guilty to federal charges for his alleged role in the scheme and was pardoned by Trump shortly before the former president left the White House. The new charges against him were brought at the state level and are not subject to a presidential pardon.
The charges were filed by two New York officials, the state’s attorney-general, Letitia James, and the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg.
“It is a crime to turn a profit by lying to donors, and in New York, you will be held accountable,” Bragg said on Thursday, claiming that thousands of donors had been victimised by Bannon, including hundreds of New Yorkers.
Speaking to reporters outside a New York courthouse, Bannon suggested that the charges — filed by two Democratic officials — were motivated by the upcoming midterm elections. “This is all about 60 days until the day!” he reportedly said.
Bannon is also awaiting sentencing after being convicted of contempt of Congress in July for failing to comply with a subpoena issued by the House committee investigating the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol.