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Trial date set for Steve Bannon in We Build the Wall donor-scam case

The trial date for right-wing political strategist Steve Bannon’s criminal case on charges that he duped donors in the We Build the Wall fundraising scam.

In a short hearing on Thursday, Judge Juan Merchan set the trial for May 27, 2024 — just two months after former President Donald Trump is set to be on trial before the same judge in his hush-money case.

After the hearing concluded, a rumpled-looking Bannon wearing a mismatched jacket and pants made a beeline for the men’s bathroom outside the courtroom, waiting for court officers to shoo reporters downstairs before exiting the building to a car waiting for him outside.

Bannon, 69, has pleaded not guilty to charges of money laundering, conspiracy and fraud charges for his alleged role in scamming Trump supporters by collecting donations to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

After some turmoil among Bannon’s legal team earlier this year, the judge granted his new team extra time to go over the evidence produced during discovery before Thursday’s appearance.

“We’ve tried to use that time productively. Obviously, the big topic of conversation was the volume of discovery,” John Carman, an attorney for Bannon said, adding that he and the prosecution team had met a few weeks prior.

The judge set the trial date almost exactly a year from Thursday, and a response date for Bannon’s team for October 6.

“It’s maybe a little bit longer than maybe you would have wanted to wait to hear from us, however there is an enormous amount … of discovery that needs to be reviewed,” Carman said.

Judge Juan Merchan

Representing the DA’s office were Assistant District Attorneys Daniel Passeser and Julieta Lozano.

“At this point, I don’t know how long the trial will take. You probably have a better sense than I do,” Merchan said.

Bannon was calm at the appearance, unlike fiery past court dates where he’s called the case a “scam.” In response to reporters peppering him with questions outside the courtroom, Bannon he reiterated supported Trump.

Bannon’s nonprofit, We Build the Wall, is charged with promising all donated funds would go toward the construction of a wall at the U.S. southern border — but instead, Bannon and his associates pocketed millions. Prosecutors say Bannon spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on cosmetic surgery, golf carts and credit card debt.

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Trump pardoned him of related federal charges, but doesn’t prevent being charged in state courts. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg slammed him with state charges in last September.

According to the D.A.’s office, the fundraising scheme lasted from January to December 2019.

Steve Bannon makes a court appearance in Manhattan Supreme Court Thursday, May 25, 2023, in Manhattan, New York.

Three other defendants in the case did not receive federal pardons. Brian Kolfage, an Air Force veteran and triple amputee and Andrew Badolato, a venture capitalist, were sentenced in April. Kolfage was sentenced to four years and three months in prison, and Badolato three years. Timothy Shea was convicted in October and his sentencing is set for June.

If convicted, Bannon could face up to 15 years behind bars.

Bannon was represented by Harlan Protass. His former legal representation, David Schoen and John Mitchell, withdrew, citing “a complete breakdown in communication” with Bannon.

Bannon, a former investment banker and producer, took the top role at Breitbart News before becoming Trump’s chief political strategist in 2016.

In October, he was sentenced to four months in prison for two counts of contempt of Congress, for his refusal to cooperate with investigations surrounding the Jan. 6 insurrection. He faces up to two years in federal prison when sentenced next month.

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