Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon leaves Manhattan federal court after his wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy hearing on August 20, 2020 in New York.
Andrew Kelly | Reuters
Manhattan prosecutors are considering prosecuting Steve Bannon for state crimes after the former senior White House adviser received a federal pardon from then-President Donald Trump.
The investigation into District Attorney Cyrus Vance’s office underscores the double-edged sword of the president’s pardon, which applies only to federal crimes, not state cases.
Bannon, who once ran Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, was charged in Manhattan District Court last year for fraud against donors who donated millions of dollars to a private group allegedly planning to use the money to build a wall the border with Mexico.
Prosecutors said Bannon himself bagged more than $ 1 million in funds for the “We Build the Wall” project.
The former head of the right-wing Breitbart News, who denied the allegations, was one of dozens of people Trump pardoned on January 18, two days before Trump stepped down.
None of Bannon’s three co-defendants in the federal criminal case were pardoned by Trump, so they faced an impending trial.
The Washington Post first reported Tuesday evening that the Major Economic Crimes Bureau of the DA Manhattan office is investigating whether Bannon may be prosecuted for New York State crimes related to We Build the Wall.
A source familiar with the investigation confirmed this report to WNBC on Wednesday.
The source said the prosecutor’s office was compiling documents as part of this investigation.
A defense attorney and spokeswoman for Bannon did not immediately respond to CNBC when asked about the investigation.
A spokesman for Vance declined to comment.
Vance’s office is currently attempting to resume state fraud and other criminal charges against Trump’s fellow 2016 campaign leader, Paul Manafort, in 2019.
A judge ruled in late 2019 that Vance’s pursuit of Manafort was ruled out by double exposure after being convicted in federal court of crimes related to the conduct that was the subject of the DA case.
Vance’s office tries to reverse the decision.
Manafort was also pardoned by Trump last month for his federal crimes.
The prosecutor’s office is currently investigating Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, on a number of issues, including how the company valued a property in Westchester County for specific purposes.
Vance’s office is also investigating how the company recorded hush money payments made shortly before the 2016 election to two women who claimed to have had sex with Trump. He has denied her allegations.
Trump has asked the US Supreme Court to block a subpoena for his income tax returns and other financial documents that a Manhattan grand jury issued to Trump’s longtime accountants at the behest of the prosecutor.
The Supreme Court, which previously denied a similar attempt to block this subpoena, has yet to say whether it will even consider Trump’s latest motion.