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Former Trump Advisor Charged in Border Wall Fraud


President Donald Trump's former chief strategist Steve Bannon leaves federal court, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020. He pleaded not guilty to charges of defrauding donors in an online fundraising scheme to build a southern border wall. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
Former Trump Advisor Charged in Border Wall Fraud
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President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon was arrested Thursday on charges of illegally taking money from a fundraising plan to build a southern border wall.

Audrey Strauss is the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York. She announced Thursday that Bannon and three other men were charged with “defrauding hundreds of thousands of donors in connection with an online crowdfunding campaign known as ‘We Build the Wall’ that raised more than $25 million.”

Bannon and the other men pushed their close ties to Trump in order to raise the money. Their effort was to collect money to build the border wall along the United States and Mexico border.

Trump promised to build the wall as part of his presidential campaign. Bannon worked for Trump during the campaign and later worked for him in the White House.

Federal lawyers in New York City said in a court document that the men promised 100 percent of the donated money would be used to build the wall. Instead, they said, Bannon received more than $1 million and used several hundred thousand to pay for personal costs. Brian Kolfage, a co-founder of the plan, secretly took more than $350,000. The other two men charged are Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea.

Brian Kolfage
Brian Kolfage


Bannon is the latest of several former Trump associates who have been accused of legal wrongdoings. Others included former campaign chair Paul Manafort, long-time lawyer Michael Cohen, campaign adviser Roger Stone, and national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Last year, an immigration plan from the president included a proposal to permit public donations to pay for his promised southern border wall.

At that point, the “We Build the Wall” effort had raised more than $20 million for the building of the wall. Former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach told The New York Times that he talked about the effort with Trump. He said, “The president said ‘the project has my blessing, and you can tell the media that.’”

But Trump later denounced the project. He wrote on Twitter last month: “I disagreed with doing this very small (tiny) section of wall, in a tricky area, by a private group which raised money by ads. It was only done to make me look bad, and perhaps it now doesn’t even work. Should have been built like the rest of Wall, 500 plus miles.”

On Thursday, Trump distanced himself from Bannon, saying he had not dealt with him for “a long period of time.” The president added that he felt “very badly” about the situation.

White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany said, “As everyone knows, President Trump has no involvement in this project and felt it was only being done in order to showboat, and perhaps raise funds.” She added that Trump “has not been involved with Steve Bannon since the campaign and the early part of the Administration, and he does not know the people involved with this project.”

Bannon’s background

Bannon had served in the Navy and worked as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs, and as a Hollywood producer.

In 2016, he left the conservative Breitbart News to join the Trump campaign as chief executive officer. After the election, he served as chief strategist during the early months of Trump’s administration.

Bannon pushed Trump to follow through on some of his campaign promises, including his travel ban on several majority-Muslim countries. But he clashed with other top advisers and was pushed out by Trump in August of 2017.

I'm Jonathan Evans.

Hai Do wrote this story for Learning English with additional information from the Associated Press. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

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Words in This Story

strategist - n. a person who is skilled in making plans for achieving a goal

defraud - v. to use fraud in order to get money

associate - n. a person who you work with

showboat - n. a person who acts in a way to attract attention

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