Bannon faced similar allegations concerning the scheme two years ago, when the federal government charged him with money laundering and wire fraud. Donald Trump pardoned Bannon in the closing hours of his presidency (despite a previous falling out between the two), voiding the indictment of his onetime campaign manager. But because some of the donors Bannon allegedly defrauded live in New York, the state had jurisdiction to pick up the legal baton — and presidential pardons only apply to federal crimes. New York’s case, initiated by the Manhattan district attorney’s office under Cyrus Vance in the aftermath of Trump’s pardon, has been building up momentum for more than a year.
Reacting to the new charges, Bannon offered a typically sober assessment of the situation:
In August 2020, federal agents arrested Bannon on a yacht. He faced charges of allocating around $1 million of funds from the “We Build the Wall” campaign, out of about $25 million raised, to pay a fellow organizer and cover personal expenses — despite promising that all funds raised would go to the quixotic goal of constructing a barrier at the southern border.
Three others also faced federal charges in the scheme, none of whom Trump chose to pardon (presumably because they weren’t friends with him). Two of them, Andrew Badolato and Brian Kolfage, pleaded guilty to a count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and await sentencing in December; both could face several years in prison. A fourth defendant, Timothy Shea, went to trial, with the jury unable to reach a unanimous verdict. CNN reports that New York prosecutors were waiting until the federal case wound down to officially charge Bannon.
Bannon faces five to 15 years of prison time if convicted in New York.
Over the last six years, Bannon has gone from running Breitbart to running Trump’s campaign to serving as a White House adviser to hosting the influential, conspiracy-friendly podcast Bannon’s War Room, in which he routinely positions Trump and himself as victims of government persecution — and encouraged the January 6 rally in Washington that led to the Capitol riot.
Bannon is now facing serious legal trouble on multiple fronts. In July, he was found guilty on two charges of contempt of Congress and faces a sentence of up to two years in prison in October. His narrative of unfair victimization may be good for his podcasting business, but ending up behind bars for a prolonged period of time might not be.