After Steve Bannon joined the online campaign We Build the Wall to raise private funds for the construction of a barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border, he made it clear there’d be “no deals I don’t approve.”

That’s according to an indictment unsealed in federal court on Thursday after Bannon was arrested aboard a yacht in Long Island Sound.

Later in the day, in a Lower Manhattan courtroom, the 66-year-old gadfly of the right and onetime top aide to President Donald Trump pleaded not guilty to charges he conspired to commit fraud and launder money in the project. A tanned Bannon, with long gray hair and wearing a white mask, was then freed on a $5 million bond.

Prosecutors allege that the former White House chief strategist defrauded hundreds of thousands of donors, including some who struggled financially, by siphoning funds out of the project to cover personal expenses and pay a salary to the group’s founder, a disabled Air Force veteran named Brian Kolfage -- all despite advertising We Build the Wall as a volunteer organization and promising Kolfage would “not take a penny.” The fund raised more than $25 million, according to prosecutors, and Bannon received more than $1 million, using some of it to pay personal expenses.

His indictment came on the same morning the Trump administration lost a bid to block a subpoena by the Manhattan district attorney for the president’s tax filings. It offered an unsavory portrait of a onetime close adviser to Trump exploiting a core promise of the president’s first election campaign in order to enrich himself.

The arrest marks a dramatic fall for Bannon, who became an influential voice with Breitbart News, ascended to power in Washington as an architect of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and went on to his short-lived career as chief strategist before falling out with the president.

After the hearing, he emerged from the courthouse holding his mask in his hand.

“This entire fiasco is to stop people who want to build the wall,” Bannon told press gathered outside, before being driven off in a black Cadillac Escalade with tinted windows.

If he is found guilty, Bannon could face as many as 20 years in prison on each of the two counts against him, although it’s rare for the maximum sentence to be imposed.

William Burck, a lawyer for Bannon, had no comment on the indictment.

First « 1 2 » Next