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Reckless ABannon: Last Thursday, “President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, was pulled from a luxury yacht and arrested on allegations that he and three associates ripped off donors trying to fund a southern border wall, making him the latest in a long list of Trump allies to be charged with a crime,” The Associated Press reports in New York. “The organizers of the ‘We Build The Wall’ group portrayed themselves as eager to help the president build a ‘big beautiful’ barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border, as he promised during the 2016 campaign. They raised more than $25 million from thousands of donors and pledged that 100% of the money would be used for the project. But according to the criminal charges unsealed Thursday, much of the money never made it to the wall. Instead, it was used to line the pockets of group members, including Bannon.” Here’s what both sides are saying:
On the Left: In an opinion piece for the Washington Post, Paul Waldman says, “Bannon’s indictment confirms that the American right is made up of con artists.” Waldman says, “If you’re keeping score, the group of people around the president who have been charged with crimes now includes Trump’s campaign CEO, Trump’s campaign chairman, Trump’s deputy campaign chairman, Trump’s personal lawyer, Trump’s national security adviser and Trump’s longtime friend and political adviser. Perhaps Bannon is innocent, and this is all a big misunderstanding,” Waldman writes. “But these kinds of cons will continue forever, the symbiosis of unethical right-wing operators and gullible right-wing multitudes. And come January, Trump himself may rejoin the game. If he loses, he’ll no doubt find some new scheme to try to convince his devotees to turn over their life savings to him. They might wise up and realize that they’ve been victimized again and again. But I doubt it.” Chris Cillizza of CNN echoes Waldman’s sentiment in a piece titled, “Steve Bannon’s arrest is the perfect symbol of the Trump era.” After outlining the story arch of Bannon’s boom and bust, Cillizza finishes with this: “The simple truth is that the story of Bannon is, in many ways, the story of Trump’s presidency. The billionaire businessman has attracted all sorts of third-rate political consultants, grifters and assorted hangers-on, elevated them to positions of power, cast them out of those positions and then watched as they aimed to cash in on their moment in the sun — whether via a tell-all book or, in Bannon’s case, an alleged nest-feathering scheme. If you can tell a man by the company he keeps, then Bannon’s ties to Trump tells us everything we need to know about the 45th president.”
On the Right: In the Spectator USA, Jacob Heilbrunn writes that “Trump will hardly be the first president whose cronies got into hot water with law enforcement. Jimmy Carter had Bert Lance and Bill Clinton, the McDougals, among others. But the sheer scope and sweep of malversation surrounding Trump is breathtaking. He seems intent on setting a Guinness Book of World Records for employing confidence men. The man who pledged to drain the swamp has single handedly pumped more fetid water into it than almost anyone could have conceived. It seems that the only way you can avoid becoming soiled in the Trump administration is by wearing a pair of high water pants into the White House. Trump and his associates seem to regard the presidency as a prolonged exercise in personal fundraising rather than public service.” In the Wall Street Journal’s opinion section Benjamin Raphael Teitelbaum simply wonders “Why Mr. Bannon, a multimillionaire, would take such risks to obtain what investigators suggest is a few hundred thousand dollars?” Raphael Teitelbaum suggests that maintaining a lifestyle may have caught up to Bannon who “traveled by private jet with a team in tow, stayed in opulent hotels, and treated large numbers of guests to elite dining and transportation, day after day, year after year.” The Washington Examiner noted that President Trump distanced himself from Bannon following his arrest, telling reporters of the “We Build the Wall” initiative, “When I read about it, I didn’t like it. I said, ‘This is for government; this isn’t for private people.’ And it sounded to me like showboating.” As The Blaze pointed out and Politico reported, Bannon struck a “defiant tone” in reacting to his arrest on Friday. Speaking on his show, “War Room,” the former Trump campaign CEO said, “I am not going to back down. This is a political hit job,” “I was called ‘honey badger’ for many years,” Bannon continued. “You know, ‘honey badger doesn’t give…’ So, I’m in this for the long haul. I’m in this for the fight.”
Flag This: In the Wall Street Journal podcast titled, “Why Steve Bannon Got Arrested,” host Kate Linebaugh asks reporters Ashby Jones and Elizabeth Findell if they think it means anything that Bannon’s arrest came just days before the Republican National Convention. Jones says that if you ask prosecutors this question on the record they will say “of course not, this is just when everything came together.” Jones says at the same time, “I think if you administer truth serum to prosecutors they will acknowledge that other factors definitely played in. It certainly could be that the Republican National Convention is on the minds of folks.” Jones suggested this arrest may have been deliberately timed to act as a “black eye” by the Southern District of New York, which “has proven to be a thorn in the side of President Trump. Throughout the years the [Southern District of New York] has investigated the Trump administration, it brought charges against Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, it looked into his inauguration, and recently the US Attorney in Manhattan, in the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey Berman, was asked to step down and was relieved of his duties by the Attorney General, Bill Barr.” Jones also does note that AG Barr “did review the [Bannon] indictment so there was indication that senior officials at the Department of Justice knew about this and they didn’t object when it was presented to them.” In terms of timed leaks, we also saw this playout on the other side last week as well. Shortly before former President Bill Clinton was scheduled to give his speech at the Democratic National Convention the Daily Mail, a right-leaning British tabloid outlet, released pictures of Clinton “enjoying a neck massage from a Jeffrey Epstein victim Chauntae Davies.” It’s extremely tough to call Bannon’s arrest and Bill Clinton’s photos apples-to-apples, and that’s not the point of this analysis. This is simply an observation that both sides likely have more arrests, photos, and “evidence” up their sleeves. Therefore as readers and voters, we should not be surprised by coincidental events the closer we get to the election.