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Prosecutors rebut ex-Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s attempt to dismiss fraud charges

Steve Bannon, former advisor to President Donald Trump, appears in Manhattan Supreme Court to set his trial date, May 25, 2023, in New York. (Curtis Means/Pool/Getty Images)

(NEW YORK) — Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s attempt to dismiss his fraud indictment in New York City “bears little resemblance to reality,” Manhattan prosecutors said Tuesday in a new court filing.

Bannon, who helped run former President Donald Trump’s campaign for part of the 2016 presidential race, is seeking to dismiss charges that he defrauded donors of the “We Build the Wall” online fundraising campaign that was supposed to raise money for Trump’s signature domestic project.

Bannon has pleaded not guilty in the case. A trial is scheduled for May.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office said Bannon defrauded donors to the nonprofit organization by falsely promising that none of the money they donated would be used to pay the salary of “We Build the Wall” president Brian Kolfage — while Bannon secretly funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to Kolfage by laundering it through third-party entities.

The fundraising campaign represented that “We Build the Wall” would use the money to privately construct the wall along the southern boarder. Prosecutors said a “central piece of the public messaging in support of this fundraising effort was that Kolfage was not taking a penny of compensation.”

Financial records show that Kolfage was paid according to a secret salary arrangement that included an upfront payment of $100,000 and monthly payments of approximately $20,000.

Prosecutors said that when Kolfage testified before a grand jury, he admitted to receiving those payments, but testified that he believed that he was being paid by a nonprofit organization controlled by Bannon, Citizens of the American Republic, instead of We Build the Wall.

Prosecutors allege that Bannon concealed his role in diverting some of the $15 million in donations toward Kolfage, pointing to messages they say show how the alleged scheme worked.

“People’s presentation in the instant matter included ample evidence that was more than sufficient to support the grand jury’s decision to vote the charges laid out in the indictment,” prosecutors said in their opposition to Bannon’s motion to dismiss.

Bannon has pleaded not guilty to charges of money laundering, conspiracy and scheming to defraud investors. He was initially indicated on federal charges, but received a pardon from then-President Trump on Trump’s final night in office.

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