Steve Bannon, one of the architects of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, was arrested over his involvement in an online fundraising group that raised more than $25 million to help fund a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Despite portraying “We Build the Wall” as a volunteer organization, Bannon received more than $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 courtroom Thursday. 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, capitalizing on their interest in funding a border wall to raise millions of dollars, under the false pretense that all of that money would be spent on construction,” U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a press release Thursday.
Bannon, 66, served as the chief executive of Trump’s presidential campaign and was the ideological architect of his populist vision. The former leader of Breitbart News helped 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 Trump’s ire.
Bannon was ousted just seven months into his role amid the firestorm over Trump’s handling of the violence that erupted surrounding white supremacist protests in Charlottesville. Bannon applauded Trump’s strategy to voice support for some of the demonstrators protesting the removal of Confederate statutes who marched with individuals chanting Nazi slogans.