Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon pleaded not guilty on Thursday to charges that he defrauded donors to a project meant to fund the construction of a border wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Bannon is facing charges in New York of money laundering, conspiracy and scheming to defraud after prosecutors alleged that he directed money that donors gave to We Build the Wall Inc. toward paying the salary of the president of the organization and for personal expenses.
Bannon has criticized the investigation as being politically motivated, saying “this is all about 60 days from the day,” referring to the November midterm elections. He said federal prosecutors did the “same thing” to him when they charged him in a similar case ahead of the 2020 presidential election.
Former President Trump pardoned Bannon for federal charges related to the wall-funding project in January 2021, before the case against his former top adviser went to trial.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D) said at a press conference on Thursday that Bannon and organizers of the project advertised through media appearances, emails and social media posts that “not a penny” would go to paying the salary of the group’s president.
But prosecutors say that the president, Brian Kolfage, received a salary of more than $250,000 funded by donations, and that at least $140,000 of which came from money that Bannon laundered. They also say he used some donations to cover personal expenses.
Prosecutors also filed charges against We Build the Wall as an organization.
Two other men, including Kolfage, an Air Force veteran, have pleaded guilty to charges related to the project, and a mistrial was declared in the case against a third defendant.
Bannon could face up to five to 15 years in prison if convicted.