Steve Bannon: why the former Donald Trump adviser was arrested for defrauding donors - and his political career explained

Steve Bannon has plead not guilty to the charges

US President Donald Trump's former Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon exits Manhattan Federal Court on August 20 (Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump's former Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon exits Manhattan Federal Court on August 20 (Getty Images)

Former White House adviser Steve Bannon has been arrested on charges that he and three others ripped off donors to an online fundraising scheme called We Build The Wall.

The former Breitbart editor is said to have defrauded thousands of donors, according to the US Department of Justice, with Bannon receiving more than $1m, some of which was used for personal expenses.

At court in New York City Mr Bannon entered a not guilty plea.

He has since been released on bail.

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What happened?

The “We Build The Wall” campaign promised to fulfil a key pledge made by Donald Trump during his 2016 election – build a wall along the US-Mexico border.

Audrey Strauss, the acting US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said that Mr Bannon and three others had "defrauded hundreds of thousands of donors, capitalising on their interest in funding a border wall to raise millions of dollars, under the false pretence that all of that money would be spent on construction".

Mr Bannon used some of the money raised to cover "hundreds of thousands of dollars in… personal expenses", according to the Department of Justice.

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$350,000 was passed on to We Build The Wall founder Brian Kolfag.

Attorney Strauss added: "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,"

The four involved are alleged to have created "sham invoices and accounts to launder donations and cover up their crimes, showing no regard for the law or the truth".

Who is Steve Bannon?

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A former investment banker, Steve Bannon was behind the rise of alt-right publication Breitbart News.

Mr Bannon emerged as a key figure in Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign to become president, serving as a chief strategist when Trump entered the White House.

He was viewed as the driving forced behind some of Trump’s most contorversial policies including the Muslim travel ban and the removal of the US from the Paris agreement.

Mr Bannon stepped down from his White House role on August 18, 2017, though it is widely rumoured that he was forced out.

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He remained in favour with President Trump, until the release of Michael Wolff book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, which contained quotes attributed to Mr Bannon, criticising Trump’s tenure as president.

Since leaving the White House he has toured Europe in an attempt to build a network of right-wing populist-nationalist parties aspiring to government.