Bannon, one of the architects of Trump’s 2016 election victory and brief adviser to the White House, was among 143 people who received pardons from Trump in his last 24 hours in office. Bannon left the White House early in Trump’s tenure after quarreling with the president, who wavered until the last minute when he issued an apology to his former strategist, the Washington Post reported.
Bannon and three others were charged by the Manhattan federal attorney’s office of falsely claiming that their “We Build the Wall” fundraiser was not receiving compensation for part of the construction of a wall on the US-Mexico border take over.
The other three who were charged with Bannon were not pardoned by Trump.
Investigators, who work under District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. in his office’s Serious White Collar Crime Bureau, are in the early stages of discussion to determine whether to bring Bannon to a state trial for his fundraising actions, two said Persons with knowledge of the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the deliberations of the Office.
It was not clear whether the US law firm in Manhattan, which is still handling the case against Bannon because it has not yet been officially dismissed, would assist the prosecution in their preliminary investigation. A judicial “apportionment order” is required for the exchange of evidence between agencies and it was unclear whether one was obtained.
A spokesman for Vance declined to comment, as did the US law firm in Manhattan. A Bannon attorney did not respond to requests for comment, and a Bannon spokeswoman had no immediate comments.
Bannon’s pardon – which applies only to federal crimes – was among the measures Trump has taken to resolve or reverse the cases of former employees charged or convicted of federal crimes, including Paul Manafort, his former campaign chairman, and Roger Stone longtime friend and advisor.
Trump also pardoned former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who, like Manafort and Stone, was convicted of the investigation by Special Envoy Robert S. Mueller III into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election – an investigation that Trump routinely refers to as a “witch hunt”.
In August, Bannon was accused of personally taking more than $ 1 million from people who donated to the We Build the Wall campaign in hopes of helping to make one of Trump’s signature pledges from the 2016 campaign receive. Construction of the wall was not yet complete when Trump stepped down from office. It had been hailed by the former president as the centerpiece of his efforts to curb illegal immigration.
Bannon, along with Brian Kolfage, a disabled Air Force veteran Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea, raised more than $ 25 million in an online crowdfunding drive and promised donors that all of the proceeds will go towards building the wall, according to federal prosecutors would be.
Bannon had been available for a $ 5 million loan. Leaving the courthouse after his indictment, he tore off a pandemic mask and told reporters that “the whole fiasco is to stop people who want to build the wall”.
All four men pleaded guilty of no conspiracy to charge wire fraud and money laundering. The next appearance in court is planned for February 22nd.
A trial of the other three defendants is slated for later this year, though pandemic restrictions may delay the trial.
Vance’s office had previously initiated proceedings against Manafort, which, however, were dismissed on grounds of “double exposure” as he had already been tried in federal court. Vance is attempting to appeal the decision to the state’s highest court, with his office alleging a misinterpretation of the law by lower court judges.
While talks between investigators in Vance’s office are preliminary, the focus is on whether a state case against Bannon, which covers the same criminal conduct from his federal case, would be an option once a judge officially dismissed him. Unlike Vance’s attempt to persecute Manafort, dual exposure would likely not apply as Bannon was not convicted at the federal level.
According to the federal indictment, the victims in the case live in the southern borough of New York, which covers Manhattan, which may be the district attorney’s jurisdiction. Financial transactions are also routinely the responsibility of the Manhattan District Attorney, as most major banking institutions are based in or operate in New York.
Vance’s office is also investigating Trump and the Trump Organization for possible tax and insurance fraud. The investigation, which began in 2019, resulted in a Supreme Court hearing on whether Trump could invoke the president’s immunity to prevent Vance from receiving tax returns and other paperwork from accounting firm Mazars USA. The Supreme Court was on Vance’s side.
Prosecutors are yet to receive the eight year records requested by their grand jury subpoena at Mazars as Trump’s legal team has another pending application to the Supreme Court, arguing that Vance’s office acted badly and the subpoena went too far be taken.