When Donald Trump fired his former campaign manager and chief strategist Steve Bannon in 2017, just six months after taking office, after a disagreement, the 68-year-old suddenly seemed to be gone. But the contact between the two men remained and Bannon continued to work on right-wing populist movements disintegrating western democracies - also in Europe, where he met in March 2018 with the AfD politicians Alice Weidel and Beatrix von Storch as well as the French Marine Le Pen of the Front National (now the Rassemblement National) met. Bannon also continued to campaign for Trump and was in contact with the then-president the day before the Capitol was stormed in January 2021. In his podcast, Bannon predicted: "All the hell is going to break loose tomorrow ").
So it was no surprise that Steve Bannon was among those people who were pardoned by Donald Trump on the last day of his term in office. This eliminated a charge of conspiracy to wire fraud and money laundering related to donations to build a wall on the US-Mexico southern border. Bannon is said to have embezzled money with accomplices as a consultant to the fundraising organization We build the Wall. But the case is apparently catching up with the right-wing populist mastermind again. According to a report in the "New York Times" (NYT), the Manhattan public prosecutor's office had picked him up with their own investigations - since a president can only pardon federal crimes, as they say, but not state crimes.
New York prosecutors filed charges later Thursday. Bannon and the organization "We Build the Wall" are accused of fraud, the authority said at a press conference. The organization has collected more than 15 million dollars in donations for the wall planned by ex-President Trump on the border between the USA and Mexico - contrary to public claims, the head of the organization paid a salary of 250,000 dollars, which was hidden through money laundering.
Bannon turned himself in to authorities that morning.
The Manhattan District Attorney has "now decided to bring false charges against me 60 days before the midterm elections," Bannon said in a statement quoted by several American media outlets. The prosecutor, a Democrat, only targeted him because he - Bannon - and his radio show were popular with Republican Trump supporters. In August 2020, New York's Southern District judiciary did exactly the same thing "to try to get me out of the election," Bannon recalled his arrest a few months before Trump's failed re-election. The lines make it clear that the co-founder of the right-wing populist media portal Breitbart still sees himself as a key political figure.
Bannon is facing renewed allegations of fraud related to the We build the Wall fundraiser because the pardon dropped the allegations in the first case. The 68-year-old has always called himself innocent in the matter. Two of his alleged accomplices pleaded guilty in April, and their conviction was recently postponed to December. The trial of a third co-defendant fell through because the jury could not reach a unanimous verdict.
"It didn't work then," Bannon recalled of his 2020 arrest, "it certainly won't work now either." Nothing can be seen in his case other than a politicization of the criminal justice system.
Sources: New York Times; politics; News agencies AFP, DPA
Note: This article has been updated to include the charge.