Steve Bannon claimed Thursday that his arrest last month was part of a broader “headhunting of high profile political targets” associated with President Trump and vowed to fight the federal indictment that alleges he defrauded hundreds of thousands of people who donated to a fundraising campaign to build a border wall with Mexico.
Speaking against the advice of counsel, Bannon told “Tucker Carlson Tonight” that federal authorities were trying to silence him in an effort to keep him from joining the Trump 2020 campaign — something he says he had no intention of doing.
“Attorney General Barr said…this is headhunting of high-profile political targets that are associated with President Trump,” Bannon alleged. “It’s not random that it was four years, almost to the day, that I took over the [Trump 2016] campaign that this indictment came out.
“What these guys wanted to do was criminalize political speech and make sure I didn’t go back to the campaign,” Bannon added. “What they messed up is, I was never going back to the campaign. The campaign is in great shape…they are doing a great job and will deliver a victory for President Trump.”
The former adviser to Trump and architect of his 2016 campaign pleaded not guilty in federal court in Manhattan after being indicted with three others for their involvement in an online fundraising campaign known as “We Build the Wall” that raised $25 million. They are accused of defrauding donors and misappropriating the funds. Bannon was released last month after posting a $5 million bond.
Bannon said he had a $1 million contract to “oversee the wall construction,” and that he regularly held seminars, conferences, and town halls to track its progress.
“We built a wall, two-thirds of a mile wall up on the mountain in El Paso within 100 days of starting. I was a contractor and ran an advisory board that brought together the best and brightest of all the wall people so they will not criminalize or shut me down talking about the wall,” he told Carlson.
Trump distanced himself from Bannon and the private border wall campaign following Bannon’s highly publicized arrest, saying that he felt “very badly” that his former adviser was charged with defrauding donors and called the project “inappropriate.” He said he hadn’t dealt with Bannon in “a very long time.”
Bannon, however, told Carlson that he is “more focussed than ever” on helping his former boss secure re-election.
“The key thing is, they want to criminalize political speech and they are not going to shut me down,” he said. “I’m more focused than ever, we’re kicking off a national tour on Monday called the “Plot to Steal 2020. They are not going to stop my voice in assisting President Trump and making sure that this election — that he’s going to win.”