Steve Bannon, former advisor to former President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media after his arrangement in New York StateSupreme Court on September 08, 2022 in New York City. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, Jr. and New York Attorney General Letitia James announced an indictment of Bannon charging him with money laundering and conspiracy in connection with the “We Build the Wall” fundraising scheme, for which the entity is also facing charges. The state chargers are based on the same federal charges for which Bannon was pardoned by former President Donald Trump. He and others have been alleged to have defrauded contributors to a private $25 million fundraising effort to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border according. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
By George Ochenski
Steve Bannon, another key player in Donald Trump’s coterie of corruption and his top strategy advisor, surrendered to state authorities in New York late last week and was “handcuffed and flanked by officers” as he was led into court. He is charged with money laundering, conspiracy and fraud related to an online scheme to raise money for the construction of a wall along the southern U.S. border.
As usual for this sorry bunch, he claimed the prosecution for his alleged crime is politically motivated to affect the upcoming mid-term elections. But the rub, as they say, is that Bannon is not running for any political office. Nor is his good pal Trump, although he’s blathering the same baseless excuse that prosecution for past crimes must be halted and ignored by law enforcement agencies if one simply announces candidacy.
Bannon has already been convicted of contempt of Congress charges for refusing to appear before the House committee investigating the failed January 6 insurrection by Trump supporters. Bannon, of course, facetiously claimed the 2020 election was stolen by the Democrats (somehow) to put Joe Biden in the White House and Trump out on the lawn.
It’s worth noting that none of Team Trump’s 60 lawsuits challenging the election results went anywhere — and were simply thrown out of court as frivolous due to lack of evidence to support the claims of election fraud.
Bannon’s most recent case is brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James and basically accuses him of defrauding those who donated to the “We Build The Wall” scam. Although promising that “100%” of the donations would go directly to continue building a wall on the southern border, somewhere around a million bucks disappeared according to the federal investigation.
Trump pardoned Bannon of the federal charges during his final days in office — more likely to protect himself from whatever the investigations might turn up than for Bannon’s sake. But presidents may only pardon federal crimes. Hence, thanks to investigations by the New York AG’s office that included subpoenaing bank records, it would appear the money didn’t just disappear, but was funneled into accounts and spent by Bannon on a variety of lavish personal luxuries.
If one gets the feeling that the walls are closing in on Trump and his bandits, there are plenty of good reasons for that assumption. For one thing, although the ex-president would undoubtedly like to hide behind the “I’m running for office and these are politically motivated prosecutions” ploy, the reality is that he’s caught in a trap of his own making. Should he announce his candidacy for the 2024 election, it could negatively affect the GOP’s outcome in the mid-term elections.
Remember, Trump has never won the popular vote — and since he had the lowest approval ratings of any recent president there’s a far greater likelihood he would lose again in 2024 than muster a majority of American voters. Thus, should the GOP suffer significant mid-term losses it would be blamed on Trump and destroy his chances of being the party’s candidate in 2024.
Facing that conundrum, he has displayed the desperation of a cornered animal, recently demanding the FBI and Department of Justice “reinstate” him as president. Of course there’s exactly zero constitutional authority to do any such thing.
The wheels of justice turn slowly in the U.S., but turn they do. Bannon is already convicted and will be going to jail. Given that, perhaps the GOP should realize its best bet is to move on from the past to a future that doesn’t include the corrupt ex-president nor any of his equally corrupt cabal.
George Ochenski is a longtime Helena, Mont. resident, an environmental activist and Montana’s longest running columnist. He wrote this column for the Daily Montanan, a sibling site of the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, where it first appeared.
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