Indictment of Steve Bannon For Wire/Mail Fraud Is “Garden Variety” Federal Prosecution



As has been widely reported, and as my RedState colleague Jeff Charles went through in this story, Steven Bannon and three others — including retired Air Force triple amputee Brian Kolfage — have been indicted on federal charges in the Southern District of New York. The three are charged in connection with their promotion and operation of a “non-profit” enterprise called “We Build The Wall,” which raised money through a “GoFundMe” campaign that was to go towards building a segment of the Trump Adminstration’s border wall along the Texas-Mexico border.

I’ve been through the allegations of the Indictment unsealed earlier today in New York, and there are some rather obvious — and some “not-so-obvious” — observations at the investigation and indictment. So in no particular order here are some of my observations:

This case was investigated by the United States Postal Inspection Service. That is not surprising in the least — this is a type of investigation that the USPIS routinely is involved in, and it is within their statutory mandate. There is NO conclusion to be drawn from the fact that the FBI does not seem to have participated. The FBI doesn’t work on every federal case, and other agencies oftentimes work to keep the FBI out of their investigations because the FBI has a tendency to “big foot” cases when they are invited to JOIN an investigation started by another agency. If USPIS felt like they had this under control, then they would work it alone. Given that the organization was a registered “non-profit”, I’m certain the IRS was involved as well — especially since the money Bannon, Kolfage, and others took for themselves would be taxable income and I doubt they declared it. There is no reason for the US Attorney in the SDNY to suggest — or dissuade — involvement by the FBI. So when you see online speculation that the absence of FBI involvement somehow signifies a lack of trust, the person making that claim either has an agenda for doing so, or they are talking out of their keyster.

This is “garden variety” fraud. The advent of online fundraising, and the development of sites like GoFundMe have allowed this kind of enterprise to flourish. Prior to those developments, this kind of fraudulent fundraising was often done through phone-banking. I fell for such a scam about 20 years ago when I received a call from an organization that “sounded” a lot like a police officer’s benevolent association, raising money for scholarships for the children of fallen officers. After I pledeged $250 I learned that the organization is basically a scam, with about 90% of the funds raised going into “operational” expenses, and 10% going into the scholarship fund. The “opeational expenses” included all the phone-bankers, who got a commission on every dollar they raised with a phone solicitation, and the operators of the enterprise who took about 50% of the funds raised in salaries and expense reimbursements.

As a general matter, this kind of “scheme” can walk the fine line between legal and illegal if the promoters and operators just follow a few established rules. Following those rules keep you off the IRS radar. Chief among those rules is don’t make knowing falsehoods in your promotional materials — don’t say things like the defendant’s said here such as “100% of the funds raised will be used in the execution of our mission and purpose”, or I’m not taking “a penny in salary or compensation,” if those things are not true. Making any kind of false representation for the purpose of obtaining money or something of value from another person is the heart of a “scheme to defraud.” Another rule to follow is be accurate in reporting the amount of money paid to executives of the non-profit. The IRS would not have batted an eye here if all four men charged had paid themselves $150,000 each a year from the funds raised as compensation for their work. That would have been a public filing, and exposure of that fact might have dampened contributions some — but they would have still raised a lot of money, and been able to take a decent amount for themsevles — all 100% legal. It might not have been quite the same amount they took by using false invoices to steer money to shell companies they controlled, but they wouldn’t be facing a decent amount of time in federal prison either.

Notwithstanding all the online caterwauling from the left, the reporting now is that AG Barr was made aware of this investigation several months ago and did nothing to interfere with it. Some have pointed to his firing of Acting US Attorney in SDNY, Geoffrey Berman, and tried to draw some connection. But Berman testified before Congress about his meeting with AG Barr earlier in the day prior to Barr announcing Berman’s “resignation” — only to have Berman deny such. Berman told Congress that he and Barr did not discuss any cases under investigation during that meeting.

As for some deep connection between Bannon and Pres. Trump, the left and the media conveniently all forget that Bannon was a very late addition to the Trump campaign in 2016. It was August 17, 2016, when it was announced that Bannon was leaving Breitbart News to join the Trump campaign, replacing Paul Manafort who was let go because of increasing controversy over his connections to political actors in Ukraine as a political consultant. But Bannon was controversial from the start, and he never meshed well with the Trump White Staff after Trump’s victory. Trump fired him from the White House in August, 2017, so he lasted less than 8 months as a member of the Trump Administration.

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I can already imagine what Trump will say when they ask him about Bannon:

“I fired him, remember?”

Is this like the Dinesh D’Souza thing?

The only reason for the left wing media and Democrats to harp on this is to try to direct attention away from their own corruption.

Indictment of Steve Bannon For Wire/Mail Fraud Is “Garden Variety” Federal Prosecution

Yep. No big deal. It’s a purely routine, garden variety felony. Everyone has a few. Steve Bannon, Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn, Roger Stone, Rick Gates, George Nader, George Papadopoulos…

Giuliani has not been charged. The trials of his associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman have been delayed until February 2021, safely after the election. They’re charged with using a shell company to conceal an illegal $325,000 donation to the Trump campaign. It’s no secret that Trump himself is under investigation by the State of New York for tax evasion and bank fraud, but he can’t be charged so long as he’s in office.


They’re charged with using a shell company to conceal an illegal $325,000 donation to the Trump campaign.

Less than the Obama campaign was fined for accepting illegal foreign and other contributions.
This has nothing to do with Trump or his successful campaign of 2016.
Stevie is a big boy he will have to face what ever is dealt to him.
This fart in the news wont change 1 vote.
Rudys evidence is being vetted, difficult after the corrupt mess that the State Dept, Biden and Soros helped to create.

This has nothing to do with Trump or his successful campaign of 2016.

It has everything to do with Trump’s character—or lack thereof. The GOP’s current leaders may have sold their party’s soul to the Devil’s pitchman, but that doesn’t mean the American people have to follow suit. They can simply turn around and walk the other way. If they do so, the GOP will most likely follow.

It has nothing to do with President Trump.

Of course it has to do with Trump. The entire point was to buy influence, for which his campaign has placed a FOR SALE sign in the window. In Trump’s world, everything is for sale on which he can turn a profit. That’s at the very center of his nature. It’s central to his world view.

If we lived in a state where virtue was profitable, common sense would make us saintly. But since we see that avarice, anger, pride and stupidity commonly profit far beyond charity, modesty, justice and thought, perhaps we must stand fast a little, even at the risk of being Heroes.

~ Sir Thomas More 1478-1535 ~

@Greg: Not one thing to do with Trump, he is building the wall with no private contributions. You know that little part of the constitution lefties love to twist, Article I, Section 8, Clause 1: The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States.
This thing belongs to Bannon and Bannon’s associates in the non profit. At this point is is only charges he is still an innocent man, until due process is complete.

Hillary accepted foreign bribes while Secretary of State. She accepted bribes to approve the sale of our uranium to Russia. I think that far overrides abusing some funds from a charitable organization.

And the DOES have a LOT to do with Obama.

Hillary accepted foreign bribes while Secretary of State. She accepted bribes to approve the sale of our uranium to Russia.

Both statements are false. There’s absolutely no credible evidence for either.

The reason there have never been charges against her is because there’s not actually anything to charge her with.

Uranium One is a goofy right-wing conspiracy theory, the underlying premise of which isn’t even compatible with basic known and easily verifiable facts. This has been explained again and again, to no avail.

@Greg: Nope, both statements are absolutely true.

She hasn’t been charged because people like the Clinton’s are above the law. Even as the cry about no one being above the law, they flaunt and ignore the law.

Yeah, Trump’s followers were also totally convinced that Clinton was part of a child trafficking ring operating out of a Washington DC pizza restaurant.

@Greg: Some were. But, Uranium One, Benghazi and the emails were totally real.

The Uranium One conspiracy theory is nonsense. The verifiable facts are simply incompatible with the claims. Clinton didn’t have the power to do what she’s claimed to have done.

Do you really believe a DoJ controlled by Trump’s boy William Barr couldn’t have managed to file charges if any of this b.s. were actually true?


The Uranium One conspiracy theory is nonsense.

No, it is an actual fact based on clear evidence.

Barr is busy dealing with a coup.