On Thursday morning, the news cycle exploded with yet another member of Donald Trump’s inner circle facing federal charges, bringing the total to six Trump confidantes who’ve faced charges since 2016. This time it is Steve Bannon, who joins Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, Rick Gates, and Michael Flynn in the Trump Indictment Club. Bannon was the Trump campaign’s chief executive officer in 2016. He later followed Trump to the White House as chief strategist, a position he left in August 2017 to return to Breitbart News and attach himself to a series of grifts, including the one he is now facing charges for, which involved soliciting donations for a privately built border wall and then, according to prosecutors, fraudulently creating sham invoices and shell companies to enrich himself and other collaborators. It’s quite similar to what the NRA was doing, as well. Makes you wonder if any other campaigns might have similar setups? Curious, indeed.
But back to Trump responding to the Bannon news. During an appearance with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, Donald Trump took a few questions and tried to put a Grand Canyon-sized gap between himself and Steve Bannon, a man he apparently barely knows now. Let’s break down his responses here, because he gave a couple of rather incredulous responses.
First up, he details how very “sad” it is that Bannon is facing charges, and the he pivots to a curious statement that is rather telling. In the clip below, Trump says, “I think it is surprising. But, this is something that by reading social media, by reading whatever it is, by speaking to Mike and Mike and all of them, I didn’t like that project.” Now why would Trump mention “social media”? Because on July 12, 2020, Trump tweeted:
I disagreed with doing this very small (tiny) section of wall, in a tricky area, by a private group which raised money by ads. It was only done to make me look bad, and perhsps it now doesn’t even work. Should have been built like rest of Wall, 500 plus miles. https://t.co/L8RUPCAhqc
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 12, 2020
Let’s be clear here: By the time he sent that tweet, Trump was no doubt well aware that Bannon’s wall project was under investigation. Bannon himself reportedly learned of the investigation in October 2019 and he and the other defendants took steps to further conceal the fraud. There can be little doubt that Trump knew and many are speculating that is precisely why Attorney General Bill Barr moved in June to fire Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. Attorney leading the investigation.
And let’s take a moment to pause and reflect on Donald Trump saying he didn’t like the privately funded border wall project because it was “showboating” and my goodness, if there is one thing Donald Trump hates, it’s showboaters.
Thank you very much to our beautiful “boaters.” I will never let you down! pic.twitter.com/Ot5Ffnjj9G
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 3, 2020
He hates showboaters so much that one of the cornerstones of his 2020 campaign is encouraging boat owners to fly Trump flags and organize boat parades weekly.
Speaking of boats, Bannon’s partner in this scam was Brian Kolfage, who created the GoFundMe account to privately build a border wall. Kolfage was a proud member of the Trump boating community, using a boat that he bought with the funds scammed from the border wall project.
Ironically enough, Steve Bannon was arrested on a yacht anchored off the coast of Connecticut. The boat is owned by exiled Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui and the arrest was carried out by … wait for it … federal postal inspectors.
This is the yacht that Steve Bannon was on when he was arrested by federal agents. It is owned by a Chinese billionaire. pic.twitter.com/zTkNratU7H
— Tom Matzzie (@tommatzzie) August 20, 2020
Back to the presser. Trump took a few questions about Iraq, the Middle East, and Putin and flailed on them all. He brushed off concerns that Putin’s political rival has been poisoned, casually bragged about taking Syria’s oil (which is a war crime), and then pivoted to a question about Thursday morning’s decision from Judge Victor Marrero of Federal District Court in Manhattan rejecting Trump’s efforts to block the Manhattan District Attorney from reviewing his tax records. In short, Trump is the biggest victim in the history of this country. He whined incessantly that this has never been done to any other president. Of course, all other presidents have released their financial records before entering the Oval Office, but never mind. He’s the biggest wittle victim of them all.
Oh, dear! Next thing you know someone might start demanding they see his birth certificate or college transcripts.
Lastly, there was one question about how he feels about six of his former top advisers facing felony charges since he took office and you guessed it, he had nothing but Obama, Obama, Obama in response.
Reporter Geoff Bennett: Respectfully, sir, it isn’t just Steven Bannon, it’s Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen. What’s it say about your judgment, that these are the kinds of people …
Donald Trump: Well, I have no idea —
Reporter Geoff Bennet: And a culture of — lawlessness.
Donald Trump: Yeah, yeah. There was great lawlessness in the Obama administration. They spied on our campaign illegally. If you look at all the things and all the scandals they had, they had tremendous lawlessness. I was not involved in the project. I had no idea who was. I can tell you, I didn’t know—the three people talked about were people I did not know. I don’t believe I even met them.
Here’s that clip.
I wish you could hear how hard I am cackling IRL right now. https://t.co/hf2Viz5UQK
— Jennifer Hayden (@Scout_Finch) August 20, 2020
For the record, none of President Obama’s former advisers ever faced any charges. Also, for the record, the folks involved in the private wall scam frequently bragged about contact with Donald Trump and his knowledge of their efforts. Just listen to Kris Kobach bragging about his involvement and Trump’s blessing of the project.
Trump endorsed the We Build The Wall scheme, and said, “I want the media to know this project has my blessing,” per Kris Kobach.
— Resist Programming 🛰 (@RzstProgramming) August 20, 2020
Of course racist grifter Kris Kobach is involved. And, of course, the president’s son was involved in promoting the group.
Donald Trump Jr. praised We Build The Wall and Brian Kolfage at a 2018 event: “This is private enterprise at its finest. Doing it better, faster, cheaper than anything else. What you guys are doing is amazing.” pic.twitter.com/hOL25JoZPI
— andrew kaczynski🤔 (@KFILE) August 20, 2020
— andrew kaczynski🤔 (@KFILE) August 20, 2020
Marcy Wheeler noted that even as Bannon was being arrested, more subpoenas were being delivered.
— emptywheel (@emptywheel) August 20, 2020
Buckle up: 2021 is starting to look up. Maybe, just maybe, this criminal enterprise is starting to crumble.
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