Weekend Review: Steve Bannon, Indicted for Fraud
Steve Bannon was arrested this week and charged with fraud stemming from the ‘We Build the Wall’ campaign, an online fundraiser turned non-profit. The organization operated under the vow that all funds would be dedicated to building parts of the Trump promised border wall, and none of the architects would receive a payout.
Audrey Strauss, acting US Attorney for New York’s Southern District, said in spite of their promise, Steve Bannon was working in conjunction with three other men to purposely defraud donors of hundreds of thousands of dollars, but to also try to make sure they never found out.
Bannon received more than $1 million of the $25 million raised. He was arrested on board a 150-foot, $28 million yachts owned by a Chinese billionaire.
Brian Kolfage, a disabled veteran who founded and served as a spokesperson for the fundraising campaign, and two other men have also been charged. Kolfage is accused of stealing $350,000 in donated money alone, which he used for personal luxuries, like a yacht and plastic surgery.
Steve Bannon was the chief executive of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and served as chief strategist and senior counsel to the president for a year after his election. He left the White House enveloped in controversy over his ties to white supremacy, though he was well-known for being a bigot prior to this involvement with Trump’s presidential campaign.
Trump has distanced himself from Steve Bannon since his White House departure and said of the fundraiser that it ” sounded to me like showboating and I think I let my opinion be very strongly stated at the time.”
Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, will have a harder time detaching themselves from the project as they were featured prominently on the ‘We Build the Wall’ website. They also attended fundraisers as key speakers, where Trump Jr. called the endeavor “private enterprise at its finest.”
Bannon appeared in federal court via video link on Thursday and was released after posting $5 million bail. His travel will be restricted while he awaits trial.
Joe Biden Formally Accepts Democratic Nomination at Party’s Convention
Following a four-day virtual convention, former Vice President Joe Biden formally accepted the Democratic nomination for president, with Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate.
They are now officially the Democratic choice to face off against President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in this year’s presidential election.
Biden gave a well-received speech, focused on finding common purpose in what he called the “season of darkness” precipitated by the Trump presidency. Biden stated, “In this dark moment I believe we’re poised to make great progress again, that we can find the light once more.”
With a list of speakers that included lifelong Republicans scattered among the obvious Democratic players, this year’s convention was not free of contention among the fractured party.
After Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was given 60 seconds to speak, she praised the progressive movement and seconded the nomination of Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Sanders amassed more than 1,110 delegates for the 2020 convention and was a popular front-runner in the early days of the primary, promising to fight for Medicare for All and other reformative policies as a central campaign focus. For context, Sen. Elizabeth Warren collected the third most delegates at the convention with 53.
Though Ocasio-Cortez was asked by the party to use her speaking time to give a procedural nod to the runner-up, NBC News simply wrote that “in one of the shortest speeches of the DNC, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez did not endorse Joe Biden.”
NBC subsequently deleted two questionable tweets, but Ocasio-Cortez said the damage was already done. “It sparked an enormous amount of hatred and vitriol, & now the misinfo you created is circulating on other networks,” she wrote on Twitter.
The Republican National Convention, where President Trump will formally accept the nomination of his party, begins on Monday.
Ongoing Protests in Minsk Over Controversial Belarus Election
At least four people have died in opposition protests in the two weeks since President Alexander Lukashenko, who has been in rule in Belarus for more than a quarter of a century, received another term in office in a contested election.
Official results showed that Lukashenko had won over 80% of the country’s vote, but without any independent observation, the opposition alleged that the election was rigged.
Lukashenko is working to crackdown on the protests and extinguish the uproar, which he blamed on “foreign-backed revolutionaries.” Protestors have reported being imprisoned and harshly tortured for engaging in demonstrations.
Last weekend, Belarus saw its largest known protest and this weekend tens of thousands of people again poured into the capital of Minsk to protest the government.
Dissenters, young and old, were met by riot police who warned by loudspeaker that anyone present was engaging in illegal activity.
Violent Clashes Rage in Portland
This weekend, alt-right protesters were met by counter- protesters in Portland, leading to another violent clash between the groups on Saturday afternoon.
Portland Police defended their decision stay out of the initial skirmish between the groups, claiming they were simply saving resources.
When officers on the scene were hit by projectiles, a riot was declared and their resources were used to clear the area.
Protests have continued for months since the death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police officers. Portland officers are accused by their citizens of using brutal tactics and needing reform.