Trump distances himself from Bannon; defends QAnon support

Trump distances himself from Stephen K. Bannon
Trump distances himself from Stephen K. Bannon

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump distanced himself from his former chief strategist Steve Bannon, who pleaded not guilty on Thursday to federal charges that include conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Prosecutors are accusing Bannon of taking more than $1 million out of the more than $25 million he helped to raise through the “We the People Build the Wall” fundraiser. The idea was to set up a private fund to help Trump build his wall in the border with Mexico.

“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 during a news conference.

Bannon’s alleged co-conspirators are Brian Kolfage, the founder of the fundraiser, Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea, the creator of the “12 oz. of liberal tears” energy drink. A federal judge set Bannon’s bond to $5 million. Read more about the case here >

President Donald Trump's former chief strategist Steve Bannon leaves federal court in New York Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020, after pleading not guilty to charges that he ripped off donors to an online fundraising scheme to build a southern border wall. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)

‘The witch hunt’

Bannon is now the 6th person from Trump’s 2016 campaign to face federal charges. The growing list includes now convicted felon Roger Stone, a Broward County resident, Michael Flynn, Rick Gates, Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen.

“This is a continuation of the witch hunt,” Trump said referring to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Attorney General William Barr appointed a prosecutor to review Mueller’s investigation. On Wednesday, a former FBI lawyer pleaded guilty to altering a document related to secret surveillance.

The Republican-led Senate intelligence committee on the Russia investigation released a final report on Tuesday saying the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russia during 2016 posed a “grave” counterintelligence threat. Read more about the report here>

FILE - In this Aug. 2, 2018, file photo, a protesters holds a Q sign waits in line with others to enter a campaign rally with President Donald Trump in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. Facebook says on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020, it will restrict QAnon and stop recommending that users join groups supporting it, but the company is stopping short of banning the right-wing conspiracy movement outright. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File) (Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

QAnon ‘people that love our country'

Rep. Liz Cheney on Thursday denounced QAnon, defined by the Anti-Defamation League as a wide-reaching conspiracy theory popular among a range of right-wing extremists.

“QAnon is dangerous lunacy that should have no place in American politics,” she said in a statement provided to ABC News.

Cheney was responding to Trump’s statement on Wednesday.

“I don’t know much about the movement, other than I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate, but I don’t know much about the movement,” Trump said. “I’ve heard these are people that love our country, and they just don’t like seeing it.”

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany defended Trump’s statement on Fox News on Thursday. Thursday on Fox News.

“He believes his supporters are good hard-working people that love this country,” McEnany said. “He is not in the business of basket of deplorables’ politics.”

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Local 10 News Digital Reporter/Producer Andrea Torres and partners ABC News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.