Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance recently subpoenaed financial records relating to a fraudulent “build the wall” scam allegedly orchestrated by Steve Bannon — signaling the New York prosecutor is looking to go after the right-wing strategist for crimes pardoned by former President Donald Trump, according to a report Wednesday.
Vance issued the grand jury subpoenas to Wells Fargo and GoFundMe in late January after Trump preemptively pardoned Bannon for any federal crimes he may have committed as part of an alleged $25 million scheme to defraud donors to a crowdfunding campaign that promised to pay for the ex-president’s Mexican border wall, sources told CNN.
Bannon and his three former co-defendants in the “We Build the Wall” scheme used Wells Fargo accounts for the fundraising effort, according to public court records. They used GoFundMe as the effort’s main crowdfunding platform.
Vance, who’s separately investigating Trump and his namesake company for fraud, declined to comment via a spokesman, as did Wells Fargo and GoFundMe.
An attorney for Bannon did not return multiple requests for comment.
Despite Trump’s pardon, Bannon could face state charges in New York over the seedy “build the wall” plot since presidential acts of clemency only cover federal crimes.
Vance’s subpoena suggests he’s looking to charge Bannon, who served as Trump’s first White House strategist until their acrimonious split in August 2017.
According to his since-pardoned federal indictment, Bannon and his co-defendants used cash raked in through the “We Build the Wall” campaign to cover hundreds of thousands of dollars in personal expenses, like credit card debt.
Bannon has denied any wrongdoing and was awaiting trial at the time of his pardon.
However, the Supreme Court has held that accepting a pardon is an admission of guilt — a finding that could complicate matters for Bannon if he ends up being indicted by Vance.
In a Jan. 20 statement explaining his pardon of Bannon, Trump did not dispute the merits of the charges against his ex-strategist.
“Prosecutors pursued Mr. Bannon with charges related to fraud stemming from his involvement in a political project,” Trump’s brief statement said. “Mr. Bannon has been an important leader in the conservative movement and is known for his political acumen.”
Bannon’s co-defendants in the federal case are still awaiting trial in the Southern District of New York. They have all pleaded not guilty.
John Meringolo, an attorney for one of the co-defendants, Timothy Shea, said Wednesday that his client has not received a subpoena from Vance. Meringolo also blasted the Manhattan DA for going after Bannon.
“Cy Vance should worry about the crime that is out of control in New York City and not headlines about Steve Bannon — or Trump for that matter,” Meringolo said.
With Molly Crane-Newman