Former Trump campaign chair Steve Bannon was indicted this week on fraud charges.
The list of indicted Donald Trump associates continues to grow.
On Thursday, former 2016 Trump campaign CEO Steve Bannon was indicted for his role in an alleged scheme to defraud donors who contributed funds to help pay for Trump's long-promised southern border wall — the one Trump repeatedly claimed would be funded entirely by Mexico. Despite promising that "100% of the funds raised" by the private crowdfunding effort, "We Build the Wall," would go to its construction, prosecutors say more than $1 million actually went to Bannon.
Trump was confronted on Thursday about the "culture of lawlessness" around him, following Bannon's arrest.
"Respectfully, sir, it's not just Steve Bannon. It's Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, Rick Gates, Paul Manafort. What's that say about your judgement and the culture of lawlessness around you?" a reporter asked.
After initially responding that he had "no idea," Trump falsely claimed, "Well, there was great lawlessness in the Obama administration. They spied on our campaign illegally. And if you look at all the things and all the scandals they had, they had tremendous lawlessness."
Trump has repeatedly made baseless and debunked allegations of illegal spying by his predecessor, even going to far as to accuse Obama of "treason," with no evidence whatsoever. According to a January PolitiFact fact-check, there were zero indictments of any officials in the Obama administration.
By contrast, despite Trump's 2016 campaign promise to "drain the swamp" and restore ethics to Washington, dozens of his associates — whom he has referred to broadly as among the "best" people — have been charged, convicted, or have pleaded guilty to a variety of crimes since he took office.
- Steve Bannon: Bannon, Trump's 2016 campaign CEO and former White House chief strategist, was indicted Thursday on fraud charges. He is reportedly expected to plead not guilty to the charges.
- Stephen Calk: Calk, a Trump 2016 campaign economic adviser, was indicted in May 2019 for making millions of dollars' worth of loans to Trump's then-campaign chair in exchange for a possible Trump administration job. Calk pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.
- Michael Cohen: Cohen, Trump's longtime "fixer," pleaded guilty in August 2018 to eight federal charges relating to campaign finance and to another charge that November of lying to Congress. He has since spoken out repeatedly against Trump, testifying before Congress that Trump was a "conman" and "cheat" who allegedly directed "a criminal scheme to violate campaign finance laws" ahead of the 2016 election by paying off two women who claimed to have had affairs with him, which might have damaged his bid for the White House.
- Chris Collins: Then-Rep. Collins (R-NY), the first congressman to endorse Trump in 2016, resigned from Congress in October 2019 and pleaded guilty to two federal charges related to insider trading.
- Michael Flynn: Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser, pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to the FBI about his communications with Russian officials. After he unsuccessfully attempted to change his plea, Trump's attorney general intervened in May to request the charges be dropped entirely. The case is still working its way through the courts.
- Paul Manafort: Manafort, Trump's 2016 campaign chairman, was convicted in August 2018 on eight federal charges related to tax and bank fraud.
- Rick Gates: Gates, Trump's 2016 campaign deputy chairman, pleaded guilty in February 2018 to conspiracy and lying to the FBI, in connection with the case against Manafort.
- Duncan Hunter Jr.: Then. Rep. Hunter (R-CA), the second congressman to endorse Trump in 2016, pleaded guilty in December 2019 to using campaign funds for personal expenses. He resigned from Congress the following month.
- George Papadopoulos: Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser on Trump's 2016 campaign, pleaded guilty in October 2017 to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia.
- Roger Stone: Stone, a 2016 Trump campaign adviser and Trump's former Washington lobbyist, was convicted in November 2019 on seven counts related to obstructing a congressional investigation. Last month, Trump commuted Stone's entire sentence.
Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), chair of the House Rules Committee, slammed Trump for his poor judgment on Thursday.
"Steve Bannon, arrested for fraud, is in good company. There's a long and corrupt list of Trump Felons like Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, Michael Flynn and Roger Stone," he wrote in a Facebook post.
"Trump didn't drain any swamp. He put in power a bunch of incompetent crooks and liars, and now we're all paying the price."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.