The wire transfers of $250,000 and $100,000 that Steve Bannon and Brian Kolfage were indicted for would have to be approved by the We Build the Wall foundation’s general counsel — Kris Kobach. The payments were in direct violation of the foundation’s by-laws. Furthermore, Kobach used the non-profit’s donor list to raise money for his Senate run, normally a felony crime.I worked with the Justice Department on racketeering cases. You don’t bust the capo (Bannon) unless you also bust the consigliere (Kobach). Both Bannon’s indictment and Kobach’s non-indictment would have to been personally approved by Attorney General, Bill Barr. (It’s worth noting that Kobach pulled in up to $400,000 in legal fees from the We Build the Wall scam — while running for Senate.)
My fear is that this is a Roger Stone special. Bannon, with Randy Credico, was the main witness against Stone in the federal trial. The Trump campaign needs to reactivate their top tricksters, Stone and Kobach. And Bannon needs muzzling after the Stone trial — and for saying that Ivanka is dumber than a board of lumber.
Fun Fact: When I was investigating Kobach for Rolling Stone, Kobach called me (yes, a shock) and proudly told me that he was the one who told Trump he could make Mexico pay for the wall.
In this episode of the Thom Hartmann Program, we discuss Bannon’s indictment — and Kobach’s intriguing non-indictment.
Thom Hartmann: Welcome back. On the line with us is our buddy Greg Palast, who’s had such an extraordinary and storied career. Investigative journalist for the BBC, The Guardian, Rolling Stone. He’s got a new book out, How Trump Stole 2020: The Hunt for America’s Vanishing Voters. Plus his film, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy… Greg, welcome back to the show. I noticed when Steve Bannon got busted that Kris Kobach’s name was floating around the outsides of this unsavory thing and immediately I thought Greg Palast… Tell us, what the hell’s going on here?
Greg Palast: The interesting thing is what’s not going on here, which is why wasn’t Kris Kobach busted? We Build the Wall is basically a crime wave parading as a not-for-profit foundation. Kobach is General Counsel. Bannon and Brian Kolfage, the guys who founded it with Kobach said they wouldn’t take a penny and yet they issued a check for $250,000 to Bannon with no explanation. $100,000 to Kolfage, which was in fact identified as wages. They’re not supposed to take the money. That can’t happen unless the General Counsel says, yeah, cut those checks. I know, I’ve got a foundation, Thom, and my general counsel, if I sent them a bill said, listen, just wire me a quarter million bucks… and give my friend a hundred grand while you’re at it… He’d have the FBI on the line in a minute. And just so you know, actually, I did that. We did bust someone who tried to take a couple extra bucks from our foundation. We went to the FBI, and they’re in prison. Hello, Mr. Kobach. Want me to send you a file in a cake? Why weren’t you indicted?
Hartmann: So Kobach was the lawyer for We Build the Wall, this scam organization, this group that was put on to specifically rip off the most racist of the Trump supporters. Those who were the most afraid of brown people coming into the United States… there’s a certain amount of schadenfreude here, correct?
Palast: I know. This is like schadenfreude with whipped cream, to see Bannon go down and all these racists get ripped off. But on the other hand, there’s also the issue of the law and I want to know what’s going on here. Because not only did Kris Kobach close his eyes to the checks going out… And remember, I was an investigator with the Justice Department. You don’t bust the capos, then leave the consigliere to run free. That’s what Kobach is, he’s the consigliere to this crime, a racketeering enterprise. It’s a classic racketeering enterprise, you know, you just scam the rubes.
In addition though, now this is interesting… Kobach used the list from We Build the Wall to fundraise for his senate campaign. The last time I looked that’s a felony go to jail crime… In other words, they’re taking the money, but he has something that’s more valuable to him, and that’s using lists. Though he did crank the organization. I know how many people realize, he got something like up to $400,000 in the past year for legal fees while he’s running for the U S Senate…
Hartmann: Greg, you told me about this years ago, that Kobach had been running this scam for years and years, where he would go to states and he would say, I’m going to help you challenge democratic voter fraud or something. They would give him hundreds of thousands of dollars. He would pretend to process data or something and sometimes they got left holding the bag. Sometimes they would pass some meaningless law… Kobach has been a grifter pretending to be a lawyer for a long time has he not?
Palast: Yes. He basically virtually bankrupted the town of Farmers Branch, Texas, which had to be bailed out by money indirectly from the Koch brothers.
What I’m very concerned with is that, you know, you can’t get a political indictment like this without the approval of the Attorney General, Mr. Barr. So he decided Bannon had to go but not Kobach? Now remember, what I’m very concerned with is that Bannon was the key witness with Randy Credico against Roger Stone. So I’m very afraid of the machinations of Roger Stone behind this, getting even with the guy who almost jailed him. And, of course, Bannon has a bad odor with the Mercer family. He attacked Ivanka, said she’s dumber than a piece of lumber. So they had to get rid of Bannon. They didn’t want him around for the campaign, but they need Kobach, so they made a very interesting decision. You’re going to take down Bannon, but you’re going to leave his co-conspirator out. He wasn’t even mentioned in the indictment…
You have to understand, with the Justice Department, that’s impossible. So the fix is in, in some way… So look, we’re all applauding that Bannon got pounced on on this one, but I’m very concerned about what they have in mind for Kobach and for Roger Stone in terms of mischief for this election.
Hartmann: Yeah. Well, Bill Barr has been the Republican fixer since 1992, when he helped George H. W. Bush pardon Caspar Weinberger, Ollie North and all of these other guys in order to blow up the Iran Contra prosecution.Just to widen the lens a little bit, you know, I sent five bucks off to the Trump campaign, along with a bunch of other campaigns, back in 2015, when they were just starting up, just to get on their lists. And I’m now getting… on some days I’ll get five or six of these fundraising appeals and they all use the same Trump / Pence logo. They’re the same graphic logos. They all look like they’re coming from the same place, but I’m getting them from Our President 45, these are super PACS… I don’t even remember all the names…there’s a half a dozen of them or so. And I remember when super PACS first became a thing after Citizens United and Stephen Colbert did this thing where he ran for public office for a senator from North Carolina, as I recall, and created a super PAC, and then he had his lawyer on afterwards and said, okay, we got a hundred thousand bucks in the super PAC, what do I do with the money? And his lawyer said, well, you can take it basically. I mean, you’ve got to circumscribe slightly how you use this money, but basically you can use it to live off for the rest of your life. And it looks to me like Trump is acquiring, and because these are super PACS, there’s no campaign donation limits, that he’s probably acquiring hundreds of millions of dollars that he and his grifter buddies are gonna live on for the rest of their lives. Do you know anybody who’s investigating this?
Palast: No… Not in the Justice Department. And keep in mind, Donald Trump was the very first candidate to ever say I’m going to be the first candidate ever to earn a profit off running for president. He announced it.
Hartmann: Well, they did that with the inaugural fund…
Palast: Exactly. And it’s a way for guys like Paul “The Vulture” Singer, who gave a million dollars to Trump. He was Never Trump and so to get in his good graces he through in a million. And if it leaks out into the Donald’s pocket, The Vulture ain’t going to complain, cause that’s kinda the idea, isn’t it? It’s all wink, wink.
And by the way, just one little aside, I can’t resist. Kris Kobach, when I investigating him for Rolling Stone and he was trying to talk me out of writing the article, he did mention to me proudly that he’s the one who told Trump that the Mexicans will pay for the wall. He told Trump how to get it done and yet Kobach is saying, well, the Mexicans will pay for the wall, but in the meantime, just make out the checks to me or We Build the Wall, which is mostly “we” and not much wall.
Hartmann: Right, which leads us straight to a 105-foot yacht with Steve Bannon on it, which is all pretty breathtaking stuff.