WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump said on Thursday he feels “very badly” about the arrest of his former close adviser Steve Bannon but knows nothing about the fundraising organization involved in the federal criminal case.
“I do think it’s a sad event,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. “I haven’t dealt with him at all now for years, literally years.”
Bannon, an architect of the nationalist populism that has defined Trump’s presidency, has been charged with defrauding Trump supporters in a campaign to help build the president’s signature wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“I feel very badly. I haven’t been dealing with him for a long period of time,” Trump said.Bannon was among four people arrested on Thursday and charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering in an indictment secured by federal prosecutors in Manhattan. Prosecutors accused the defendants of defrauding hundreds of thousands of donors through a $25 million crowdfunding campaign called “We Build the Wall,” the Justice Department said. They each face up to 40 years in prison.
“I know nothing about the project other than I didn’t like, 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,” Trump said.
The Republican president also told reporters that he did not know the three charged along with Bannon and did not believe he had ever met them.