NEW YORK — Former President Donald Trump’s longtime ally Steve Bannon surrendered Thursday to face fresh charges that he duped donors who gave money to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Bannon’s state-level charges in New York are expected to closely resemble an attempted federal prosecution that ended abruptly, before trial, when Trump pardoned Bannon on his last day in office. Presidential pardons apply only to federal crimes, not state offenses. In Bannon’s case, any double jeopardy argument would likely fall flat because his federal case didn’t involve an acquittal or conviction.
Bannon, 68, arrived at the Manhattan district attorney’s office shortly after 9 a.m. Thursday. He had acknowledged in a statement Tuesday that he would be charged soon.
Bannon said earlier that District Attorney Alvin Bragg “has now decided to pursue phony charges against me 60 days before the midterm election,” accusing the Democratic prosecutor of targeting him because Bannon and his radio show are popular among Trump’s Republican supporters.
Bannon said federal prosecutors “did the exact same thing in August 2020 to try to take me out of the election,” referring to his arrest months before Trump’s reelection loss. “This is nothing more than a partisan political weaponization of the criminal justice system.”
Bragg and New York Attorney General Letitia James planned a 1 p.m. news conference to announce charges against Bannon.
In 2020, federal agents pulled Bannon from a luxury yacht off the Connecticut coast and arrested him on charges he pocketed more than $1 million in wall donations. Prosecutors alleged thousands of investors were tricked into thinking all of their donations would go toward the border wall project, although Bannon instead paid a salary to one campaign official and personal expenses for himself.
While the wall Bannon’s group proposed was to be built on the U.S. southern border, more than 1,000 miles from the Big Apple, Manhattan prosecutors have jurisdiction to pursue charges against Bannon because some donors to the effort lived in New York.
Federal prosecutors, in the trial of a former Bannon co-defendant, noted that some residents of the New York City area had donated to the wall-building project. One witness that testified was an official with the charities bureau of the New York attorney general’s office who said that a charity backing the wall project had filed paperwork to accept donations in the state. The attorney general’s office is also involved in Bannon’s state criminal case.
Bannon, who had pleaded not guilty to the federal charges, was dropped from the federal case when Trump pardoned him.
Two other men involved in the “We Build the Wall” project pleaded guilty in April. They had been scheduled to be sentenced this week, but that was recently postponed to December.
A third defendant’s trial ended in a mistrial in June after jurors said they could not reach a unanimous verdict.
In another case not covered by Trump’s pardon, Bannon was convicted in July on contempt charges for defying a congressional subpoena from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. He is scheduled to be sentenced in October and faces up to two years in federal prison.
Story by Michael R. Sisak.