Steve Bannon, former chief strategist of US president Donald Trump, was arrested and indicted by federal prosecutors on fraud charges, along with three others on Thursday, August 20. The charges filed against Bannon, along with Brian Kolfage, Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea, are related to embezzling donors of millions of dollars to build a private border wall.
According to federal prosecutors representing the US Department of Justice (DoJ), the four accused misappropriated funds for their personal use. According to the charges filed, Bannon alone received close to USD 1 million, most of which was used for personal expenses. According to the DoJ, he made use of a non-profit he controlled to siphon off funds from the campaign.
Kolfage, Bannon and the others launched the “We Build the Wall” campaign in December 2018. The campaign raised over USD 25 million, and promised donors a stretch of border wall privately built along the US-Mexico border. Brain Kolfage, who is the main face of the campaign and its brainchild, has been charged with misappropriating around USD 350,000.
Bannon was the chief strategist for the Trump campaign in the 2016 presidential elections, and is widely seen as the architect of the “Build the Wall” slogan for the campaign and its anti-immigrant and xenophobic positions. Nevertheless, as news of the arrest broke out, president Trump was quick to distance himself from both Bannon and We Build the Wall campaign, stating that he never supported building private border walls.
All four of the accused have been released on bail. Bannon was presented before a federal judge in New York, while Kolfage and Badolato were presented at courts in Florida, and Shea was taken to a court in Colorado. The arrest of Bannon, especially by a prosecutor’s office that has also been pursuing cases against others close to Trump and his administration, is expected to become a matter of debate for the upcoming elections.
A former Hollywood producer, Bannon was among the founding board members of the right-wing website Breitbart News, and is among the most recognizable faces of the ‘alt-right’ movement in the US and the west. He later became its executive chairman in 2012 and served in the post until 2018.
Bannon’s time at Breitbart saw the website giving greater platform to a opinions and voices that advocated anti-semitic and xenophobic conspiracy theories. He has also spoken out in support of European far-right groups and politicians, including France’s Marion Maréchal-Le Pen
His appointment as Trump campaign strategist was strongly opposed, especially people’s movements working for the rights of migrants. He was later appointed as a chief strategist of the Trump administration, and was involved in the National Security Council as well.
Bannon was sidelined in the administration within months of his appointment. After the 2017 Charlottesville Unite the Right rally during which a white supremacist rammed his car into a crowd of anti-nazi protesters, killing one person, Bannon was forced to leave the administration, for allegedly delaying a presidential condemnation. Bannon was then described as a “symbol of white nationalism” by the NAACP.