By Talia Kaplan | Fox News
‘He has been indicted, that’s the first step, let’s see what a jury of 12 does with it’.
The charges against former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon point to “a classic fraud scheme,” former House Oversight Committee chairman Trey Gowdy told “America’s Newsroom” on Thursday.
Bannon and three others were arrested Thursday in connection with an online fundraising campaign that allegedly defrauded donors out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, the Justice Department announced.
“He’s the same guy who claimed credit for the president’s [2016 election] victory,” Gowdy, now a Fox News contributor, said of Bannon. “He wrote a kiss-and-tell book when he left the White House, accused Donald Trump Jr. of an act of treason, said there was zero chance the president didn’t know about the Trump Tower meeting and is the only person on the planet … that can elect a Democrat in Alabama because he backed Roy Moore.
“Having said that, I’m not one who wants to burn the justice system down,” he continued. “We have a presumption of innocence.”
READ THE DOJ CHARGES AGAINST BANNON, 3 OTHERS
Gowdy, a former state and federal prosecutor in South Carolina, explained that “the indictment is a formal charge, it is not evidence,” but added that what the indictment “laid out” is “a classic fraud scheme.”
According to the indictment, Bannon and co-defendant Brian Kolfage told the public that they were a “volunteer organization” and that 100% of the money raised would go toward their stated goal, which was to raise money for the federal government to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Those representations were false,” the indictment said. Prosecutors claim that Kolfage, Bannon, Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea took money for themselves as the campaign raised upward of $25 million. The indictment alleges that Bannon received more than $1 million through a nonprofit that he then used for personal expenses and to pay Kolfage.
Prosecutors also say Bannon and the others used the nonprofit and a shell company to hide the payments to Kolfage “by using fake invoices and sham ‘vendor’ arrangements,” as well as other means of keeping the payments quiet. The indictment stated that in order to raise funds, Kolfage and Bannon “repeatedly and falsely” told the public that Kolfage would “not take a penny” in compensation.
Host Trace Gallagher noted that “they said again and again that not a penny of this money would ever go to anything except for building the wall.”
“They said that, and also what kind of personal expenses?” Gowdy asked in response. “Are all of the expenses related to his role in this fund or is he buying suits? Is he paying his utility bills?”
“People in Congress, campaign money, you can use it for certain things but you can’t use it for other things,” he continued. “So look, he has been indicted, that’s the first step, let’s see what a jury of 12 does with it.”
Fox News’s Ronn Blitzer contributed to this report.
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