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Stephen Bannon, President Trump’s former chief strategist, was charged Thursday with defrauding donors to a private fundraising effort called We Build the Wall. The campaign aimed to crowdfund sections of a wall on the U.S.–Mexico border. Bannon worked with Brian Kolfage, a wounded Air Force veteran, and Andrew Badolato, a Florida venture capitalist, to allegedly cheat hundreds of thousands of donors who gave more than $25 million. They promised all donated money would be used to build sections of the wall, but used much of it for themselves instead, according to prosecutors.
Bannon allegedly used nearly $1 million for personal expenses, and was arrested while onboard the boat 150-foot yacht of his friend the fugitive Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui. The arrest comes after a steep decline for Bannon. He played a key role in Trump’s victory in 2016 as his final campaign manager, and then joined Trump’s administration as an adviser but was fired in August 2017. Trump said he felt badly about Bannon’s arrest but he hadn’t dealt with him for a long time. Trump also said that he knew nothing about the We Build the Wall project, but then contradicted himself to say it was inappropriate. His son Donald Trump Jr. and other current and former administration officials publicly promoted the effort. Bannon’s partners Kolfage and Badolato, as well as Timothy Shea, were also arrested on Thursday. Kolfage said that he would not take a penny in salary or compensation when he announced the GoFundMe. According to prosecutors, Kolfage spent $350,000 of the money raised on home renovations, boat payments, a luxury S.U.V., a golf cart, jewelry and cosmetic surgery. The New York Times