September 2, 2020
Senior Trump campaign official Jason Miller appears to have been paid about $20,000 a month for work done for We Build the Wall, the supposed nonprofit organization co-founded by former Trump strategist Steve Bannon, according to public court filings obtained by Salon.
Bannon was arrested along with three others—and charged with defrauding hundreds of thousands of donors who contributed to the fundraising campaign for the “ private border wall”—the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York announced on August 20, according to a report by The Hill.
The We Built the Wall nonprofit — now reportedly under investigation in connection with the federal charges against Bannon—started paying Miller the same month that Bannon’s associates learned they were under federal investigation, court documents and public reports show.
The Trump campaign has not disclosed any payments to Miller since news of his hiring broke in June, Salon notes—nor has the campaign disclosed any salary payments to campaign manager Bill Stepien, according to mandatory federal filings. Publicly available court documents obtained by Salon together with Federal Election Commission (FEC) records suggest that the campaign is paying Miller $35,000 a month, apparently through non-public indirect transactions.
Although prosecutors do not explicitly name Bannon’s nonprofit in the indictment, the document describes “Non-Profit-1” as predating the crowdfunding campaign and being dedicated to promoting “economic nationalism and American sovereignty.” This would appear to describe the Bannon-founded nonprofit called Citizens of the American Republic (COAR), which first filed a tax return in 2017. Its website says the group “seeks to advance the ideals of Economic Nationalism and American Sovereignty.”
Miller co-hosted a podcast with Bannon for COAR, reportedly beginning in October 2019.
In an August 23 interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Miller told host Chuck Todd that although he had worked for COAR, he had not been interviewed by government investigators. “I have not, and from public reports it looks like this investigation was going long before the podcast even started, the podcast and the radio show that I co-hosted with Steve,” Miller said.
While the exact timeline of the federal investigation is not a matter of public record, the Florida Agriculture Commissioner reportedly opened a probe into We Build the Wall in May 2019, but had not been contacted by SDNY investigators despite referring elements of the case to the FBI.
Prosecutors in the Southern District of New York have charged Bannon, along with co-defendants Brian Kolfage, Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea, with running a multimillion-dollar fraud and money laundering scheme, in which they secretly siphoned millions of dollars in payments from their We Build the Wall crowdfunding campaign through a shell company as well as an unnamed nonprofit.
The group disguised the allegedly unlawful transactions with fake invoices to hide their own personal takes, according to the indictment.
Bannon denies the charges.
Research contact: @Salon