Steve Bannon Charged with Fraud in a Border Wall Fundraiser

Bannon and three of his associates have been accused of using funds from a border wall charity for personal expenses. Here’s what you need to know.

What Happened:

Steve Bannon was charged with defrauding donors to We Build the Wall (WBW), a private fundraiser intended to support the Trump administration construct border walls along the Mexican border. WBW raised approximately $25 million, with nearly $1 million used to cover Bannon's personal expenses. 

WBW was created as a GoFundMe page in 2018 and claimed to have raised $17 million in its first week of fundraising. 

Bannon, who served as Chairman on WBW's Advisory Board, is better known as a former strategist for the Trump administration and his 2016 presidential campaign, having helped coin his "America First" slogan. Currently, he is free on a $5 million bond

Why it Matters:

A Growing List of Trump Associates Charged With Federal Crimes

Soon after the news broke, President Trump called Bannon’s arrest a “sad event”, while simultaneously distancing himself from Bannon and the WBW fundraiser. Bannon is Trump's eighth associate charged with Federal crimes, and is facing up to 40 years in prison for charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering. 

Trump’s Build the Wall Promise

The Mexican border wall was Trump’s centerpiece for immigration policy and a major rallying cry during his 2016 campaign. Initially, Trump proposed building 1,000 miles of border wall at a cost between $8-12 billion. Soon after taking office, however, an internal report from the Department of Homeland Security estimated the border wall could cost as much as $21 billion

To date, just 30 miles have been built in areas with no preexisting wall, while 240 miles of wall have been updated. WBW’s efforts resulted in less than five miles of border wall, though they claim to have agreements with Texas landowners to build along 250 miles of riverfront.