Steve Bannon ‘stole millions of dollars to line his own pocket,’ New York attorney general says – live

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Hailing Steve Bannon’s indictment for conspiracy and money laundering over a fraudulent border wall fundraising scheme as “an important day for justice”, New York’s attorney general Letitia James said he “stole millions of dollars to line his own pocket”.

“Regular, everyday Americans”, she said, played by the rules, and that people like Bannon ignore them:

They think that they are above the law, and the most egregious of them take advantage of hardworking Americans in the process. And Steve Bannon stands out as a perfect example of this blatant inequality.

He gained power and influence as a top adviser to the former president. And he used that influence and those connections to cheat everyday Americans and carry out this fraud.

When Mr Bannon created a fundraising scheme to finance the construction of that wall, he basically stole millions of dollars to line his own pocket, and those of other politically connected people.

Letitia James speaks at a news conference in Manhattan on Thursday.

Simply put, Mr Bannon lied to ordinary citizens about this project. He diverted their hard-earned money. He preyed upon the emotions of New Yorkers and Americans.

And then when Mr Bannon was held accountable for his criminal actions, the former president pardoned him.

Given this reality, it is understandable how hard working honest ordinary citizens are cynical about the two systems of justice in our country, one for the rich and powerful, and another for everyone else.

But in New York, we have zero tolerance for corruption and or for abuses of power.

Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg told reporters that Bannon’s formal arraignment would take place within the next hour in the New York supreme court.

Here’s my colleague Hugo Lowell’s report reminding us what the Bannon scandal is about:

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We’re closing the US politics blog now. A hugely hectic day saw Steve Bannon, former chief strategist to Donald Trump, arrested and arraigned on fraud charges relating to fundraising for the former president’s border wall.

In New York’s supreme court this afternoon, Bannon pleaded not guilty to six felony counts and was released without bail until next month.

Letitia James, the New York attorney general, said Bannon “cheated everyday Americans” and “basically stole millions of dollars to line his own pocket”.

Here’s what else we followed:

  • Presidents past and present led US tributes to Queen Elizabeth II, who died this afternoon aged 96. Joe Biden said she was “more than a monarch. She defined an era”.

  • The department of justice appealed a Florida judge’s controversial ruling agreeing to Donald Trump’s demand for a ‘special master’ in its investigation into the former president’s handling of classified materials.

  • The Biden administration formally reversed the Trump-era “public charge” rule that barred immigrants from gaining legal residency if they had utilized certain government benefits.

  • First lady Jill Biden named a new press secretary, Vanessa Valdivia, most recently communications director for California Democratic senator Alex Padilla.

The department of justice is appealing a Florida judge’s controversial ruling agreeing to Donald Trump’s demand for a ‘special master’ in its investigation into the former president’s handling of classified materials.

District court judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee, ruled on Monday that a special master was necessary to review classified documents taken by FBI agents from Trump’s Palm Beach mansion, Mar-a-Lago, during an 8 August search.

Justice Department appeals federal judge’s ruling for a special master in Trump Mar-a-Lago case pic.twitter.com/iCOVvwL2zX

— Manu Raju (@mkraju) September 8, 2022

The decision temporarily blocks the department from using for investigative purposes thousands of records seized, which the Washington Post reported on Wednesday included nuclear secrets of an unnamed foreign power.

William Barr, attorney general during the Trump administration, called Cannon’s decision flawed.

Cannon directed Trump’s attorneys and lawyers for the department to submit by Friday a list of names to be considered as a special master by Friday. The role is often filled by a lawyer or former judge.

The justice department filed notice of appeal Thursday, saying it was contesting the ruling to the Atlanta-based 11th US circuit court of appeals.

And here’s former president Barack Obama’s tribute to Queen Elizabeth II:

Like so many of you, Michelle and I are grateful to have witnessed Her Majesty’s dedicated leadership, and we are awed by her legacy of tireless, dignified public service. Our thoughts are with her family and the people of the United Kingdom at this difficult time. pic.twitter.com/sbID222iSQ

— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) September 8, 2022

Former president Donald Trump also released a statement on the death of Queen Elizabeth II, on behalf of himself and the former first lady:

Melania and I are deeply saddened to learn of the loss of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Together with our family and fellow Americans, we send our sincere condolences to the royal family and the people of the UK during this time of great sorrow and grief.

Queen Elizabeth’s historic and remarkable reign left a tremendous legacy of peace and prosperity for Great Britain. Her leadership and enduring diplomacy secured and advanced alliances with the US and countries around the world. However, she will always be remembered for her faithfulness to her country and her unwavering devotion to her fellow countrymen and women.

Melania and I will always cherish our time together with the Queen, and never forget Her Majesty’s generous friendship, great wisdom, and wonderful sense of humor. What a grand and beautiful lady she was – there was nobody like her!

Our thoughts and prayers will remain with the great people of the UK as you honor her most meaningful life and exceptional service to the people.

Joe Biden has ordered flags to half-staff at all government, public and military buildings in the US, and at embassies, military buildings and vessels in US territories and possessions overseas, to mark the passing of Queen Elizabeth II.

In a proclamation released from the White House, the president said the flags would remain there until sunset on the day of the Queen’s interment.

“The seven decades of her history-making reign bore witness to an age of unprecedented human advancement and the forward march of human dignity. Her legacy will loom large in the pages of British history, and in the story of our world,” the proclamation said.

Earlier this afternoon, House speaker Nancy Pelosi ordered the lowering of flags at the US Capitol in Washington DC.

Steve Bannon has pleaded not guilty to all six felony counts of his indictment for money laundering, conspiracy and scheming to defraud at his Thursday afternoon arraignment in New York’s supreme court.

Donald Trump’s former chief strategist arrived in the Manhattan courtroom in handcuffs, and had his passports confiscated as a condition of his release.

New: Steve Bannon pleads not guilty to money laundering and conspiracy charges connected to the “We Build the Wall” fundraising effort, agrees to surrender passports — case adjourned until Oct. 4

— Hugo Lowell (@hugolowell) September 8, 2022

He was arraigned on two counts of money laundering in the second degree, three of conspiracy in the fourth and fifth degree, and one of scheming to defraud in the first degree.

The charges all relate to an alleged fundraising scam in which Bannon siphoned thousands of dollars in donations meant to help construct Trump’s border wall, prosecutors say.

“It’s all nonsense. They will never shut me up. Ever,” Bannon told reporters in the court’s hallway.

The case was adjourned until 4 October

“It’s all nonsense. They will never shut me up.” – Bannon pic.twitter.com/kH2NVOM07d

— Graham Kates (@GrahamKates) September 8, 2022

Queen Elizabeth II was “more than a monarch. She defined an era,” Joe Biden anf first lady Jill Biden have said in a statement.

The president’s tribute, posted to the White House website, also called the late monarch “a stateswoman of unmatched dignity and constancy who deepened the bedrock alliance between the UK and US”:

In a world of constant change, she was a steadying presence and a source of comfort and pride for generations of Britons, including many who have never known their country without her. An enduring admiration for Queen Elizabeth II united people across the Commonwealth. The seven decades of her history-making reign bore witness to an age of unprecedented human advancement and the forward march of human dignity.

She was the first British monarch to whom people all around the world could feel a personal and immediate connection – whether they heard her on the radio as a young princess speaking to the children of the UK, or gathered around their televisions for her coronation, or watched her final Christmas speech or her platinum kubilee on their phones. And she, in turn, dedicated her whole life to their service.

Queen Elizabeth II was a stateswoman of unmatched dignity and constancy who deepened the bedrock alliance between the UK and US. She helped make our relationship special.

The Bidens’ statement also included personal recollections from meetings the president and first lady had with the Queen:

We first met the Queen in 1982, traveling to the UK as part of a senate delegation. And we were honored that she extended her hospitality to us in June 2021 during our first overseas trip as president and first lady, where she charmed us with her wit, moved us with her kindness, and generously shared with us her wisdom.

All told, she met 14 American presidents. She helped Americans commemorate both the anniversary of the founding of Jamestown and the bicentennial of our independence. And she stood in solidarity with the US during our darkest days after 9/11, when she poignantly reminded us that ‘Grief is the price we pay for love’.

In the years ahead, we look forward to continuing a close friendship with the King and the Queen Consort. Today, the thoughts and prayers of people all across the US are with the people of the UK and the Commonwealth in their grief.

We send our deepest condolences to the royal family, who are not only mourning their Queen, but their dear mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. Her legacy will loom large in the pages of British history, and in the story of our world.

It looks like the White House has canceled this afternoon’s address by Joe Biden about Covid-19 vaccines, presumably out of respect following the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

We’re awaiting an official response or statement from the White House to the news.

At a press briefing earlier this afternoon, during which news of the British monarch’s death emerged, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the president’s thoughts were with the royal family:

Our hearts and our thoughts go to the family members of the Queen, goes to the people of the United Kingdom.

I don’t want to get ahead of what the president is going to say. But our relationship with the people of the UK, and this is something the president has said himself, has grown stronger and stronger. The UK is one of our closest allies.

Again, our hearts go to the people of the United Kingdom, to the Queen and to her family.

House speaker Nancy Pelosi has released a statement:

Today, Americans join the people of the United Kingdom in mourning the sad passing of Queen Elizabeth II.

Over her seven decades on the throne, Her Majesty was a pillar of leadership in the global arena and a devoted friend of freedom.

On behalf of the United States Congress, I extend our deepest and most sincere condolences to the Royal Family during this sad time.

The Biden administration has formally reversed a Trump-era rule that barred immigrants from gaining legal residency if they had utilized certain government benefits, the Associated Press reports.

The department of homeland security said Thursday that a new regulation for the “public charge” rule would go into effect in late December, although the administration had already stopped applying the previous version last year.

Alejandro Mayorkas.

“Consistent with America’s bedrock values, we will not penalize individuals for choosing to access the health benefits and other supplemental government services available to them,” homeland security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement, adding the shift “ensures fair and humane treatment.”

The public charge rule bars people from getting green cards if they would be burdens to the US.

Prior to the Trump administration, that was interpreted as being primarily dependent on cash assistance and income maintenance. Trump expanded the disbarring benefits to include non-cash assistance including food stamps and Medicaid.

Joe Biden is about to speak from the White House in an address billed “the arrival of Covid-19 vaccines”, but it is inconceivable the president won’t be devoting the moment to a tribute to Queen Elizabeth II, who died this afternoon aged 96.

Biden was the 13th US president of her long reign, and the two heads of state took tea together at Windsor Castle in June of last year.

Joe Biden and Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle in June 2021.

According to Biden, the Queen asked him about his Russian and Chinese counterparts, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, during their 45-minute talk.

“We had a long talk, she was very generous. I don’t think she’d be insulted, but she reminded me of my mother. In terms of the look of her and just the generosity,” Biden said at the time.

You can follow the Guardian’s rolling coverage of the Queen’s death here:

Hailing Steve Bannon’s indictment for conspiracy and money laundering over a fraudulent border wall fundraising scheme as “an important day for justice”, New York’s attorney general Letitia James said he “stole millions of dollars to line his own pocket”.

“Regular, everyday Americans”, she said, played by the rules, and that people like Bannon ignore them:

They think that they are above the law, and the most egregious of them take advantage of hardworking Americans in the process. And Steve Bannon stands out as a perfect example of this blatant inequality.

He gained power and influence as a top adviser to the former president. And he used that influence and those connections to cheat everyday Americans and carry out this fraud.

When Mr Bannon created a fundraising scheme to finance the construction of that wall, he basically stole millions of dollars to line his own pocket, and those of other politically connected people.

Letitia James speaks at a news conference in Manhattan on Thursday.

Simply put, Mr Bannon lied to ordinary citizens about this project. He diverted their hard-earned money. He preyed upon the emotions of New Yorkers and Americans.

And then when Mr Bannon was held accountable for his criminal actions, the former president pardoned him.

Given this reality, it is understandable how hard working honest ordinary citizens are cynical about the two systems of justice in our country, one for the rich and powerful, and another for everyone else.

But in New York, we have zero tolerance for corruption and or for abuses of power.

Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg told reporters that Bannon’s formal arraignment would take place within the next hour in the New York supreme court.

Here’s my colleague Hugo Lowell’s report reminding us what the Bannon scandal is about:

District attorney Alvin Bragg is laying out details of the scheme in which Bannon “directed” transfers of tens of thousands of dollars in donations – meant to help fund Donald Trump’s border wall – to a non-profit he controlled, which then paid a salary to We Build the Wall’s president, “thereby obscuring the source of the funds”.

Bannon and three other individuals were indicted by the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York for crimes related to this fundraising scheme and then just months later received a presidential pardon from former president Donald Trump.

We then began investigating and determined that Mr Bannon must be held accountable… for his conduct as the architect of this scheme, which impacted hundreds of Manhattan residents.

Because the simple truth is that it is a crime to profit off the backs of donors by making false pretenses.

This is the work we do, ensuring that when a Manhattanite hands over money for a particular purpose they know where it’s going and that it actually goes there without any smokescreens or false pretenses.

And so we are here to say today in one voice that in Manhattan and in New York, you will be held accountable for defrauding donors.

Read more:

Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg and New York attorney general Letitia James have just begun a press conference to give more details of this morning’s indictment against former Trump strategist Steve Bannon.

Bragg says Bannon was the architect of a year-long fundraising scheme by him and other leaders of We Build the Wall Incorporated “that netted more than $15m from thousands of donors across the country based on false pretenses”:

Specifically the false promise that all of the funds obtained to We Build The Wall would go to the construction of a wall on the border of the United States and Mexico and that, and I quote, ‘not a penny’ would go to its president’s salary.

We Build The Wall’s fundraisers use that phrase time and again, not a penny, as they solicited donations through media appearances, emails to potential donors, social media posts, and more.

But instead of pennies, the president of We Build the Wall received more than $250,000 in a salary funded by donations, at least $140,000 of which we allege was laundered by Steve Bannon.

Ruth Braunstein writes…

Among the many subplots roiling Washington is a surge in Republican concern about a provision of the Inflation Reduction Act that would invest $80bn in the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to modernize outdated technology and increase enforcement of tax laws. Citing this investment, Senator Ted Cruz warned of a coming “shadow army of 87,000 IRS agents”.

The preference to pay lower taxes is as American as apple pie and has been a centerpiece of modern Republicanism. Demonizing the IRS is not. In fact, mainstream Republicans have historically maintained a commitment to cutting taxes without promoting hysterical fears about the enforcers of tax laws. When champions of tax cuts have talked of “starving the beast”, even they have been clear that the beast is big government. The IRS is just the messenger.

George W Bush requested an increase in funding for “IRS enforcement activities”, insisting that “Americans who play by the rules and pay their taxes deserve confidence that others pay their fair share as well”, and also that “enforcement more than pays for itself”. This made sense for the leader of a party that prided itself on its commitments to “law and order” and balanced budgets.

For his father, George HW Bush, these commitments also required vocally rejecting anti-government rhetoric. In 1995, the former president publicly resigned as a life member of the National Rifle Association when the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre stood by his characterization of federal agents as “jack-booted thugs” who sought to “attack law-abiding citizens”, even after anti-government extremists carried out a deadly attack on a federal office building in Oklahoma City.

Today, the Republican party – emboldened by years of a sitting president denouncing the “deep state” – has embraced this precise brand of anti-government rhetoric, and their latest target is the IRS.

First lady Jill Biden has a new press secretary, according to an announcement today from East Wing staff.

Vanessa Valdivia will assume duties soon, a statement Elizabeth Alexander, the first lady’s communications director, says.

We had incredible candidates, and enthusiasm around the search for this position, and we are all excited to welcome Vanessa Valdivia to our team soon as the new @FLOTUS Press Secretary! Full statement here: pic.twitter.com/01tJV3DDqE

— Elizabeth Alexander (@EAlexander46) September 8, 2022

Valdivia was most recently communications director for Democratic California senator Alex Padilla, Alexander said.

She takes over from Michael LaRosa, who resigned in July.

The New York Times has also got hold of a copy of Geoffrey Berman’s book, describing “new details about how the justice department under President Donald J Trump sought to use the US attorney’s office in Manhattan to support Mr Trump politically and pursue his critics – even pushing the office to open a criminal investigation of former secretary of state John Kerry”.

John Kerry.

As the Guardian has its own copy of the book, here’s a precis of what Berman writes about the Kerry issue.

After ending his stint as Barack Obama’s secretary of state in 2017, Kerry continued to talk to diplomatic contacts, among them Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister with whom he had conducted talks around the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. This is normal.

Trump opposed the deal. He also did not think Kerry talking to the Iranians was normal, and tweeted angrily about it. Berman writes:

On 9 May 2018, the day after the second Trump tweet, the co-chiefs of SDNY’s national security unit … [were told] Main Justice was referring an investigation to us that concerned Kerry’s Iran-related conduct … the focus was to be on potential violations of the Logan Act.”

The Logan Act, from 1798, prohibits private citizens from conducting relations with foreign powers. It has rarely been used and indeed is generally held not to be usable at all.

“This is what we were being asked to consider using to prosecute Kerry,” Berman writes.

The investigation never leaked to the media, Berman says. He also points to the irony that Trump himself was generally held to have conducted foreign policy, regarding Israel, before taking office.

The SDNY decided not to act, in part, Berman writes, because it held that the Logan Act “does not prohibit a former US secretary of state from talking to a foreign official”.

Berman calls William Barr’s conduct over the investigation – as attorney general, putting political pressure on prosecutors to please his president – “outrageous”.

Barr had a second go at getting Kerry for Trump, Berman says, by moving the investigation to Maryland. That didn’t work either.

The department of justice inquiry into Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn his 2020 election defeat to Joe Biden has expanded to look at the activities of the former president’s political action committee Save America, ABC News is reporting.

A federal grand jury has been empaneled to look specifically at the group’s fundraising operations and, the network says, it has issued subpoenas for “documents, records and testimony from potential witnesses”

EXCLUSIVE: A federal grand jury investigating the Jan. 6 attack and efforts to overturn the 2020 election has expanded its probe to examine Trump’s leadership PAC, sources say. https://t.co/mTQrPkT9jh

— ABC News (@ABC) September 8, 2022

The ABC report states:

The subpoenas, sent to several individuals in recent weeks, are specifically seeking to understand the timeline of Save America’s formation, the organization’s fundraising activities, and how money is both received and spent by the Trump-aligned PAC.

According to ABC, Save America PAC has brought in more than $135m, including transfers from affiliated committees, according to disclosure records, since its inception days after the 2020 election.

As of the end of July, the PAC reported having just under $100m in cash on hand, the network said.

And here’s the full 22-page grand jury indictment for Steve Bannon that’s just been released.

Bannon has been indicted on six counts, two of money laundering in the second degree, three of conspiracy in the fourth and fifth degree, and one of scheming to defraud in the fifth degree.

The conspiracy and scheme to defraud was in essence, the indictment alleges, Bannon and other leaders of We Build The Wall Inc soliciting money to help with the construction of Donald Trump’s border wall (that the former president insisted Mexico would pay for), and assuring donors that nobody was taking a salary.

The executives, the state alleges, were actually siphoning off “hundreds of thousands of dollars” for themselves, and in Bannon’s case around a million dollars.

We’ll learn more at the lunchtime press conference from New York attorney general Letitia James and Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg.

Meanwhile, you can read the indictment here.

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