- A judge dismissed an indictment against Steve Bannon months after former President Trump pardoned him.
- The judge’s written order took pains to detail the allegations against Bannon, however.
- Prosecutors say he took more than $1 million from a border wall fundraising scheme.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed an indictment against Steve Bannon, formally approving former president Donald Trump’s pardon of his onetime campaign strategist – and noted in the court order that Bannon allegedly took more than $1 million from people who thought they were donating to Trump’s US-Mexico border wall.
“By October 2019 … Bannon and the other defendants received hundreds of thousands of dollars each, which they used on personal expenses such as travel, hotels, and personal credit card debt,” Judge Analisa Torres wrote in her order.
The order follows months of legal wrangling after Trump pardoned Bannon, his former chief White House strategist and top 2016 campaign official, shortly before he left office.
Federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York brought wire fraud and money laundering charges against Bannon in August 2020, alleging he participated in a scheme that funneled money from the “We Build a Wall” fundraiser to enrich himself.
The fundraiser, launched during a 2018 government shutdown, ultimately brought in $25 million that was supposed to go toward building a US-Mexico border wall.
Prosecutors also charged Trump supporters Brian Kolfage, Andrew Badolato, and Timothy Shea, all of whom Trump did not pardon and may still go to trial.
In a separate case, federal prosecutors in Florida filed an indictment against Kolfage alleging he broke tax laws in taking money from the wall scheme.
The judge reiterated the allegations against Bannon in her order
In her written order, Torres dismissed the indictment against Bannon, but took pains to detail the role prosecutors said he played in the scheme in a lengthy “background” section.
“Unbeknownst to donors, within days of the launch of We Build the Wall, Bannon, Kolfage, and Badolato, among others, agreed that Kolfage would be paid ‘$100k upfront [and] then 20 [per] month,'” Torres wrote, citing the original indictment. “In one of a variety of ways, Bannon agreed to pass payments from We Build the Wall to Kolfage through a nonprofit Bannon controlled … In making this agreement, Bannon made clear that there would be ‘no deals [he did]n’t approve.'”
Bannon previously denied all the charges against him, as have Kolfage, Badolato, and Shea.
Torres’ order points out that Bannon took more than $1 million from the “We Build a Wall” organization after he asked Kolfage to send him money – and then used the money for personal expenses.
“Bannon, apart from using these funds to pay Kolfage’s secret salary, used ‘a substantial portion . . . for personal uses and expenses unrelated to We Build the Wall,'” the judge wrote.
After Trump’s pardon, prosecutors asked Torres to remove Bannon from the case rather than dismissing the indictment entirely. Torres, siding with Bannon’s attorney, ruled that legal precedent required her to dismiss the indictment.
“It is not the practice of this district to remove a defendant from the docket without a resolution of the indictment,” Torres wrote.
“The judge clearly reached the right result,” Bannon’s attorney, Robert Costello, said in a statement to the Washington Post. “An unconditional pardon should always result in the dismissal of the indictment. Finality should result in finality.”
The Manhattan District Attorney’s office is also investigating Bannon’s finances as part of a fraud investigation into “We Build a Wall,” according to CNN. Trump’s pardon covers only federal crimes, and would not apply to state-level charges that the DA’s office could bring.