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A day after Steve Bannon, a former top adviser to President Donald Trump, was arrested by federal authorities as part of an investigation into the We Build The Wall organization, the bombastic “honey badger” said he’s not backing down.
Speaking this Friday on his daily podcast, the “War Room: Pandemic,” he proclaimed his innocence and declared his arrest to be a “political hit job” motivated by parties hellbent on silencing anyone who supports the building of a border wall.
“Look, I am not going to back down. This is a political hit job. Everybody knows I love a fight. You know, I was called honey badger for many years. You know, honey badger doesn’t give up, so you know I’m in this for the long haul,” he said.
“I’m in this for the fight. I’m going to continue to fight. This was to stop and intimidate people that want to talk about the wall. This is to stop and intimidate people that have President Trump’s back on building the wall.”
#SteveBannon on arrest: I am not going to back down.
This is a political hit job.
— War Room: Pandemic ☣️ (@WarRoomPandemic) August 21, 2020
Bannon was arrested along with several other associates, including Brian Kolfage, the disabled Purple Heart veteran who launched the We Build The Wall campaign two years ago to raise funds to expedite the construction of a southern U.S. border wall.
Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Audrey Strauss, who was appointed to her post by the president, claimed in a statement that Bannon and his associates had instead used the raised funds to enrich their own lives.
“As alleged, the defendants defrauded hundreds of thousands of donors, capitalizing on their interest in funding a border wall to raise millions of dollars, under the false pretense that all of that money would be spent on construction,” she said.
“While repeatedly assuring donors that Brian Kolfage, the founder and public face of We Build the Wall, would not be paid a cent, the defendants secretly schemed to pass hundreds of thousands of dollars to Kolfage, which he used to fund his lavish lifestyle.”
— US Attorney SDNY (@SDNYnews) August 20, 2020
Some have speculated that this is all a misunderstanding. When one forms a non-profit like We Build The Wall, they’re allowed to collect a salary. But for whatever reason, Kolfage proudly declared that he would take no money for himself.
But Kolfage didn’t stick to his public vow. Behind the scenes, he collected $350,000, which according to critics would have been an acceptable salary had he not made the “moronic” decision to pay himself in a highly intransparent manner.
Kolfage could have taken a salary and not lost one donor. Set up shell corps why? To avoid criticism on social media?Entire situation is beyond moronic.
— Cernovich (@Cernovich) August 20, 2020
$350k isn’t even that much for the CEO of a non-profit. Just take a look at how the Dietrich Foundation, which basically just distributes money to other local Pittsburgh operations, compensated their CEO:
— Hassan 🦁 (@HassaninDC) August 20, 2020
— Cernovich (@Cernovich) August 20, 2020
According to the Department of Justice, the way in which money was funneled to Kolfage AND Bannon (he reportedly received $1 million) was through “a scheme.”
The defendants allegedly “devised a scheme to route those payments from We Build the Wall to” Kolfage through another non-profit created by Bannon and a shell company created by another one of the defendants, the DOJ noted in a press release.
“They did so by using fake invoices and sham ‘vendor’ arrangements, among other ways, to ensure, as KOLFAGE noted in a text message to [another defendant], that his pay arrangement remained ‘confidential’ and kept on a ‘need to know’ basis.”
Despite the DOJ’s portrayal of Kolfage as some sort of malevolent criminal, Bannon maintained Friday that he’s still “an American hero.”
Listen to the whole podcast below:
“One thing I can tell you from the heroic effort we did, and really Brian Kolfage, who’s an American hero. Brian Kolfage is, I think, the most wounded airman in the history of the Air Force to survive. He’s a triple amputee, almost bled out multiple times after he’s hit during the Afghan and Iraq War, and just an American hero,” he said.
“The pain and agony that guy still goes through every day … he has dedicated his life when he had this idea, dedicated his life to building the wall.”
It’s also true that We Build The Wall has built some wall.
“Remember, President Trump’s right: Building the wall is a government function. We’ve never questioned that at all. This was to show support for President Trump in the wall movement, and the wall has to be built,” Bannon continued.
He concluded his remarks by again reiterating that the charges against him and his alleged co-conspirators are nothing but a “political hit job.”
“This is a political hit job is to try to stop and intimidate people about not just building the wall, but of what sovereignty means,” he said.
But not everybody trusts that Bannon is telling the truth:
The “political hit job” argument would make sense if your powerful friends rallied around you to say that they know your character and that you’d never do such a thing. https://t.co/TbHz92UJGl
— J Michael Waller (@JMichaelWaller) August 21, 2020
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