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Steve Bannon to turn himself in on new NYC criminal charge

Facing fundraising fraud charges related to those for which he got a federal pardon on former President Donald Trump’s last day in office, the former conservative campaign strategist is expected to surrender to Manhattan prosecutors on Thursday.

MANHATTAN (CN) — Steve Bannon, the right-wing political strategist pardoned in 2021 by former President Donald Trump, is expected to surrender Thursday to New York City prosecutors.

Bannon, 68, plans to turn himself in on Thursday, according to a person familiar with the matter, who insisted on anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

First reported by The Washington Post, citing anonymous sources, New York’s state criminal case would resemble an earlier attempted federal prosecution in which Bannon was accused of duping donors who contributed to the We Build The Wall fundraiser, supposedly to privately fund construction of a wall along the U.S. southern border with Mexico.

That federal case against Bannon ended abruptly, before trial, when Trump pardoned the former Breitbart News executive chairman his last day in office in January 2021.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday morning.

Just before midnight on Tuesday evening, Bannon and his staff put out a statement that confirmed the imminent charges, which he renounced as “nothing more than a partisan political weaponization of the criminal justice system.”

“The Soros-backed DA has now decided to pursue phony charges against me 60 days before the midterm election because WarRoom is a major source of the MAGA grassroots movement,” Bannon wrote, invoking the far-right conspiracy theory targeting Hungarian-American billionaire philanthropist George Soros, who funds pro-democracy activism across the globe.

“The SDNY did the same thing in August 2020 to try to take me out of the election. It didn't work then, it certainly won't work now,” the statement continues.

Ahead of his pardon, federal agents pulled Bannon from a luxury yacht owned by Chinese billionaire Guo Wengu off the Connecticut coast and arrested him on charges he pocketed more than $1 million in donations meant for the wall.

“They are coming after all of us, not only President Trump and myself. I am never going to stop fighting,” Bannon said regarding the latest charges. “In fact, I have not begun to fight. They will have to kill me first.”

Bannon also plugged his podcast “Bannon’s War Room,” promising his audience that the white nationalist political talk show “will be more vital, more intense, more urgent, and bigger this time.”

From the beginning, We Build the Wall promised that 100% of funds raised would go toward construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. It quickly raised some $25 million in private donations on GoFundMe but built a mere 3 miles of fencing. The rest, according to charging papers, lined its founder’s pockets. Prosecutors said Bannon and U.S. Air Force Iraq War veteran Brain Kolfage alone used more than $1 million in We Build the Wall donations to pay for a boat, a 2018 Land Rover Range Rover, a golf cart, jewelry, cosmetic surgery and other assets.

Kolfage and another co-defendant, Florida venture capitalist Andrew Badolato, both pleaded guilty in April. They had been scheduled to be sentenced this week, but the hearing was recently postponed to December.

A third defendant’s trial ended in a mistrial in June after deadlocked jurors said they could not reach a unanimous verdict against Colorado businessman Tim Shea.

CNN reported in June that the Manhattan district attorney’s office has issued subpoenas as part of criminal investigation into Bannon's fundraising efforts.

In a separate case also not shielded by Trump’s pardon, Bannon was convicted in July on contempt charges for defying a congressional following a referral from the House committee investigating the January 6th insurrection at the Capitol. 

Bannon was represented in the contempt trial by Maryland attorney Evan Corcoran, who is now representing former President Trump in connection with classified documents that were improperly stored at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort.

“We didn’t put on a defense in the case,” Corcoran said during closing arguments. 

Corcoran said that conclusion was made based on an assessment of the government’s case. Describing their client as “handcuffed,” the defense said Bannon wanted to testify but would have been “barred from telling the facts,” so they decided against it. 

While a presidential pardon can waive federal crimes but not state offenses, the Manhattan district attorney’s office previous attempt to charge Trump’s ally and former campaign chair Paul Manafort for mortgage fraud was scuttled when state court Justice Maxwell Wiley threw the case out on double jeopardy grounds.

Manafort was convicted in August 2018 in a federal court in Virginia on eight counts of bank and tax fraud, failing to file a report for a foreign bank account, and falsifying his income on federal tax returns.

Trump later pardoned Manafort in a slough of pardons issued in December 2020 to loyalists including Charles Kushner, father of Jared Kushner, and Roger Stone, the conservative political consultant and former business partner of Manafort.

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