People in Steve Bannon’s “immediate circle” have received subpoenas in recent weeks requesting that they testify before a New York state grand jury about the former Trump adviser’s fundraising for a private border wall, CNN reported Friday.
Bannon was charged for the alleged fraud in 2020, only to be pardoned by Trump before the former president left office. Bannon and three others were accused of defrauding donors to the “We Build the Wall” crowdfunding effort, which raked in more than $25 million.
Prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York have said Bannon used $1 million in funds to pay co-conspirator Brian Kolfage for his personal expenses, despite donors having been told that all the money would go directly to the construction of the wall. According to the 2020 indictment, Kolfage used this donation money for home renovations, a boat, jewelry, plastic surgery, and paying off credit card debt, among other things.
In a 2019 video clip from one of the group’s “Wall-A-Thon” fundraisers, Bannon actually jokes about taking money from the “We Build the Wall” effort.
“We’re off the coast of Saint-Tropez in southern France, in the Mediterranean,” Bannon crowed. “We’re on the million-dollar yacht of Brian Kolfage. Brian Kolfage, who took all that money from ‘We Build The Wall.’ No, we’re actually in Sunland Park, New Mexico.”
Folks, this really happened. pic.twitter.com/EviEJCGvs7
— John Whitehouse+ (@existentialfish) August 21, 2020
Kolfage, along with co-defendant Andrew Badolato, pleaded guilty in April to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Kolfage also admitted to filing a false tax return. “I knew what I was doing was wrong and a crime,” Kolfage told a judge. The pair are set to be sentenced in September. A fourth person charged by federal prosecutors, Timothy Shea, is on trial after pleading not guilty.
According to CNN, Manhattan prosecutors are waiting to make a decision on charging Bannon until the cases against his three co-defendants have concluded.
“We Build the Wall” didn’t result in much wall being built. About one mile of fence was put up on private land the group bought in Sunland Park in 2019. Bannon said then that that project cost $6 million.