Trump seeks to distance himself from Bannon arrest, calls fundraising project "inappropriate"

by Bryan Brammer · Aug 20th, 2020 4:21 pm

Last Updated Oct 14th, 2020 at 2:51 pm

President Trump and White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Thursday distanced the administration from former chief strategist Steve Bannon, who has been arrested on fraud charges.

"I feel very badly. I haven't been dealing with him for a very long period of time, as most of the people in this room know," Trump told reporters during an Oval Office meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi.

Trump said he had no knowledge of Bannon's We Build The Wall fundraising campaign, but said he opposed the project because it depended on private funds. He felt the fundraising project was "inappropriate."

"I didn't like it, it was showboating and maybe looking for funds. But you'll have to see what happens," Trump said.

On Thursday morning, the U.S. Attorneys Office for the Southern District of New York alleged that Bannon and three others leveraged the We Build the Wall campaign to raise $25 million from hundreds of thousands of donors "under the false pretense that all of that money would be spent on construction."

Instead, disabled Iraq war veteran Brian Kolfage, who created the GoFundMe campaign in 2018, used a large portion of the donated funds personally. The other three men, including Bannon, helped funnel the money.

McEnany released her own separate statement, saying Trump had "no involvement" in the fundraising project and that he disapproved of it.

"[The president] has always felt the Wall must be a government project and that it is far too big and complex to be handled privately. [Trump] has not been involved with Steve Bannon since the campaign and the early part of the administration, and he does not know the people involved with this project," McEnany said.


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