Trump University may be gone but its spirit lives on. On Thursday, federal prosecutors for the southern district of New York announced the indictment and arrest of Steve Bannon, the mastermind behind Donald Trump’s 2016 upset victory, and three others on a single count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Prosecutors allege that defendants allegedly bilked more than $25m in a crowdfunding campaign, and as part of the scheme, Bannon purportedly funneled $1m through a separate non-profit with more than a few golden crumbs used to “cover hundreds of thousands of dollars” in personal expenses.
In case anyone forgot, Bill Barr, Trump’s attorney general failed in his attempt to make the SDNY an extension of Main Justice, and the SDNY has investigated and prosecuted close allies of the president. Regardless, having persuaded nearly 63 million Americans four years ago into voting for a reality TV star with a string of corporate bankruptcies to his name, it was time for one more score by the president’s erstwhile allies.
So this is what “law and order” means in the age of Trump: corruption at society’s highest levels, wholesale contempt for the constitution, and crime in the streets. To be sure, this is the same crew that made “lock her up” a campaign rallying cry and convinced a portion of the electorate that Mexico would pay for the wall.
Indeed, over the course of a morning, Bannon gained one more thing in common with Mike Flynn, Trump’s disgraced national security adviser who like Bannon was exiled from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue’s island of broken toys. For now, Flynn is a convicted felon; Bannon may yet become one.
Trump says he knows ‘nothing’ about border wall project following Bannon’s arrest – video
Regardless, the news could not have come at a worse time for the president. There are only 75 days to the election, Joe Biden’s lead is fairly steady, and Hillary Clinton is not on the ballot. In other words, the indictment of Bannon & Co is one more rancid cherry sitting atop a disastrous week for Trump.
Minutes after federal prosecutors unsealed the criminal charges, a federal judge dismissed Trump’s latest lawsuit, which again sought to block the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr, from obtaining the tax returns and business records of Trump and his company.
As for the merits of Trump’s arguments, the court observed, they are “as unprecedented and far-reaching as it is perilous to the rule of law and other bedrock constitutional principles on which this country was founded and by which it continues to be governed”.
It wasn’t enough that the US supreme court had previously refused to buy what the president was selling. Apparently, fear of his own indictment weighs heavily on the ageing one-time real estate developer.
In turn, all this comes on the heels of the US Senate’s intelligence committee report that confirmed that Trump had lied to Robert Mueller, the special counsel, and that Paul Manafort worked hand in glove with a Russian intelligence asset to help elect Trump. Yes, there really was collusion.
Indeed, Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, could not have made things any clearer about how the president and his minions view re-election. As Barack Obama was warning the US of the danger posed by Trump to the country and democracy, Kushner proclaimed on Fox News: “In the Democratic convention, I’m hearing a lot of lecturing moralists … in this administration, we have a lot of doers, we have businessmen, we have people who are held accountable.”
Accountable? Facing a burgeoning pandemic back in March, Trump had this to say, “I don’t take responsibility at all.” Also for the record, Kushner received his White House security clearance the same way he got into Harvard – “Daddy” pulled some very expensive strings.
Once upon a time, Kushner even predicted that the US would be “rocking” come July. Instead, Covid’s death toll hovers at the 175,000-mark, first-time unemployment claims are rising, and the president has designated QAnon, the hate-filled conspiracy movement as a de facto Republican party adjunct.
Predictably, Trump has contradicted himself even as he seeks to distance himself from Bannon. Asked about the latest charges, Trump said he didn’t “know anything about the project at all” and that he “didn’t like that project” because he thought it was “being done for showboating reasons”.
So was Trump ignorant or did he have a problem with We Build the Wall for its lack of modesty? Try none of the above.
Rather, Trump again appears to be dancing around the truth, ie, lying. In January 2019, Kris Kobach, Kansas’s ex-state attorney general and immigration hardliner, told the New York Times that Trump had bestowed his “blessing” on the project.
Bannon was hauled into custody by the US Postal Inspector Service. While the US Postal Service refuses to guarantee that absentee ballots will be delivered on time, it still had the manpower and money for a few more arrests. Irony abounds, the indictment also seeks asset forfeiture.
Originally published: 2020-08-20 18:57:17