On Thursday, August 20, CNN reported a story with the headline “Steve Bannon, three other people charged with fraud in the border wall fundraiser”. This case underscores the independence of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and its head, Attorney General (AG) William Barr – despite opposing claims and opposing implications by critics.
CNN trumpets the fact that Bannon was “President Donald Trump’s former campaign advisor” in the first sentence, logically to link the president to the alleged fraud. And it goes on to explain that Bannon and three others have been accused of “defrauding donors of hundreds of thousands of dollars in a fundraiser supposedly aimed at helping Trump’s border wall.” This phrase makes the same obvious attempt in relation to the President’s border security efforts, although some explanation is required.
We’re building the wall The website is still up and running and you can visit it Here. According to the accusationThe original campaign was called “We the People are Building the Wall” and its (alleged) attempt was to raise money from donors to donate to the government for building barriers along the southern border. It was started by a Brian Kolfage to raise money through a crowdfunding website.
It was a success, grossing $ 17 million in the first week. Of course, donating money to the U.S. government for a specific purpose is a questionable proposition, and this (along with unspecified questions about the background to Kolfage) caused a crowdfunding website to suspend the campaign in December 2018 (at which point it had they raised $ 20 million). after the indictment. Kolfage was warned by the crowdfunding website that they would be returned to donors unless a nonprofit could be identified to which the funds could be transferred.
That was around the time Bannon and an Andrew Badolato were allegedly involved (Kolfage and Badolato are also defendants in the indictment). Bannon and Badolato made one 501 (c) (4) non-profit, now “We Build the Wall, Inc.” named to which the funds raised by the previous organization could be transferred (IRS granted this status on July 17, 2019).
The purpose of the organization was changed to include funds for “the Private Building a wall along the United States’ southern border “. (Emphasis added) In order to convince the crowdfunding website to release the funds (again, according to the indictment), the trio agreed (among other things) that Kolfage” would not take any Salary “and that he” would personally not take a penny in compensation from these donations “.
Previous donors had to choose to have their donations forwarded to the new organization so that the three defendants had to “recollect” the money they had already raised. To that end, they allegedly made certain statements, including the fact that “100% of the funds raised” would be used for wall construction “and that no” penny “would be used to compensate for” kolfage “.
Most previous donors have chosen to do so, and we have received additional donations totaling approximately $ 25 million. The DOJ claims these accounts were false and that Kolfage, Badolato, Bannon and a fourth defendant (a Timothy Shea) received hundreds of thousands of dollars “for their personal use and benefit”. In particular, Kolfage allegedly received more than $ 350,000 from a separate not-for-profit, a Shell company, and accounts controlled by two unnamed employees.
In October, Kolfage, Badolato, and others learned from an unnamed financial institution that the government may be investigating We Build the Wall. Changes have been made to the group’s website, removing the promise that Kolfage would not be compensated, and adding the fact that he would receive a salary from January 2020. The alleged “secret salary payments” to Kolfage were suspended after that date.
The DOJ accused Kolfage, Badolato, Bannon and Shea of a count of Wire fraudand a conspiracy to commit money laundering. The government seeks forfeiture of various bank accounts, as well as real and personal property.
The indictment was signed by acting US attorney for the South District of New York (SDNY) Audrey Strauss and filed by the DOJ in the US District Court for the South District of New York.
All defendants are innocent until proven guilty – which is true in this case as in all other cases. The DOJ convinced a grand jury that the allegations and allegations are correct, but I have no idea whether they are or not. Only a process (or a request) will tell.
Strauss is the acting US attorney because she replaced Geoffrey BermanThe president sacked in June, an act that ended a series of back and forth maneuvers – many of them politically charged.
However, the dismissal of U.S. attorneys is a privilege of the executive branch: keep this in mind May 2009 When the then AG Eric Holder declared that the President would replace a “batch” of them, did he declare “a matter of choice”? Or President Clinton’s AG, Janet Reno, “All 93 remaining candidates asked to step down shortly after taking office”? Probably not: old news and does not fit the media narrative.
And Berman wasn’t exactly named a US attorney in SDNY by the president. He was temporarily appointed for this job by the then AG Jeff Sessions to the 120 days in January 2018 (New York Senators Chuck Schumer (D) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D), According to reports did not consent to his election to fill the job permanently due to his association with Rudy Giuliani. He was not nominated for the position, and when that provisional term expired, the District Court justices appointed him a U.S. Attorney in April this year.
Ostrich was not the first choice of the President or the AG to later lead the SDNY, but it is “considered the titan of the employee bar” which previously prosecuted the President’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen, among others. She also gave up a fairly lucrative career to return to office and reportedly “made substantial donations over the years to Democratic presidential candidates like Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton”.
None of this suggests that Strauss is biased in any way. On the contrary: It shows that the DOJ and its boss, AG Barr, are primarily much, much more interested in justice and the rule of law than in politics – no matter what you are told.
This is a politically charged prosecution, although none of the accused are currently political officials.
Needless to say, Bannon is closely associated with the President in public. But their relationship was stormy (to say the least). After this Bannon (who was fired by the president in August 2017) allegedly criticized Trump’s family members. The president responded in January 2018: “Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency. When he was fired, not only did he lose his job, he lost his mind.” Such statements are likely to be forgotten given the current indictment .
And, as I noted earlier, immigration was a major issue in the 2016 campaign, and border barriers remain a point of contention between the President and Congress Democrats.
This case ties both Bannon and the border together, and gives the media an opportunity to tarnish both the president and one of his main problems. But if the allegations are true, the DOJ did the right thing – from the donors, the American people, and the judiciary itself.
However, here’s how the Washington Post played the story: “Bannon’s indictment raises other uncomfortable questions about William Barr’s SDNY move.”. That means the Berman fires. You must read up to paragraph 13 to obtain:
There is still no solid evidence that Berman’s removal and efforts to install anyone but Strauss were specifically tied to efforts to narrow the investigation, which Barr disliked. Barr denied this in Congress in July, saying it was “nonsense”. He added that “anyone familiar with the Justice Department would say that removing a component head will not affect an upcoming investigation.”
The prosecution against Bannon / We Build the Wall proves the truth of Barr’s testimony better than anything.
Logically, a US attorney appointed by Trump would have expedited the investigation. Can you imagine the uproar? Surely any number of prosecutors and investigators would have publicly resigned to worship the media, followed by Congressional hearings, subpoenas, etc. All reasonable. It would hardly have been worth it for a man whom the President publicly derided as “maddened”.
This logic does not seem to be included in the Washington Post article (which is supposedly “analysis” and not an opinion). I don’t know about the author, but apparently he never worked for the government, much less in a prosecutor’s office.
And supposedly he doesn’t follow the news: Thousands of former DOJ employees have already urged Barr to quit because of various perceived abuses. Any prosecutor who quits because of such interference (as they would have, trust me) would be celebrated and soon anchored in their own convenient practices. (I’m a former DOJ employee – like Barr on two separate posts – and I think he’s fine by the way).
The fact is, at least from the indictment point of view, it sure looks like it was the DOJ, led by William Barr, that first launched the investigation.
Again, Kolfage, Badolato and Bannon learned that there might be a federal investigation in October 2019, and Barr became an AG in February 2019. The alleged fraud began just before December 2018 and lasted until the indictment was filed. The investigation into this fraud must therefore have almost started after this Barr accepted the job and continued during his (ongoing) tenure.
Remember that the next time the AG is started “Ideologist”. He is the “United States Attorney General”, not the “Attorney General of the Trump Administration.” And apart from shady hints, that’s how he behaves.
DOJ’s motto is “Qui Pro Domina Justitia Sequitur“. In Latin, it roughly means” Who is suing in the name of Our Lady Justice. “The” Who “in this sentence is the AG – William Barr. If the allegations in the indictment in US v. Kolfage are true, he evidently lives up to this lofty goal. Come what may.
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