Former White House adviser Steve Bannon was arrested and indicted on Thursday in a scheme to defraud people who thought they were donating to border wall construction.
Donald Trump on Thursday tried to deflect criticism after his former campaign chief and White House adviser Steve Bannon was indicted in a crowdfunding campaign to build a private section of Trump's long-promised border wall. Prosecutors allege Bannon and three other men defrauded donors.
In a statement, the White House said, "As everyone knows, President Trump has no involvement in this project and felt it was only being done in order to showboat, and perhaps raise funds."
"President Trump has always felt the Wall must be a government project and that it is far too big and complex to be handled privately," the statement said.
Donald Trump Jr. had previously praised the "We Build the Wall" campaign.
In a video shot at an event in 2018 and posted Thursday by CNN reporter Andrew Kaczynski, the younger Trump praised Brian Kolfage, another of the four men indicted in the alleged scheme, thanking him for his "sacrifices doing this."
"This is private enterprise at its finest. Doing it better, faster, cheaper than anything else," Trump Jr. said. "And what you guys are doing is pretty amazing. It started from a grassroots effort and it's doing some wonderful things."
Trump tried to distance himself from the project, even though the men indicted in the alleged scam are members of his inner circle.
Bannon headed Trump's 2016 campaign and served as a senior counselor to Trump during his first eight months in the White House.
Kris Kobach, a top Trump supporter who led Trump's failed voter fraud commission, is the group's lawyer and is featured in videos on the crowdfunding group's website. And Erik Prince, the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and a top Trump supporter mentioned in the Mueller report as part of a scheme to obtain Hillary Clinton's emails, is on the group's advisory board.
We Build the Wall's website also includes testimonials from other top Trump aides.
"Don and I wanted to come down and see what's going on here and it's really impressive at what you've been able to accomplish," reads a testimonial on the website from Kimberly Guilfoyle, Trump Jr.'s girlfriend, who works for a Trump-connected super PAC.
"People can't appreciate how beautiful this wall is until they come and see it for themselves," reads a testimonial from Corey Lewandowski, Trump's first 2016 campaign manager.
In a media availability in the Oval Office Thursday, Trump said of Bannon, "I feel very badly. I haven't been dealing with him for a long period of time."
Bannon is the sixth member of Trump's inner circle, after Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, Rick Gates, Paul Manafort, and Michael Cohen, to be indicted on federal charges.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.