In January 2019, Kris Kobach told the New York Times that President Trump had given his blessing to an effort to build a private wall along the border with Mexico. The organizers of the project are now facing federal fraud charges.
Kobach, a former Kansas secretary of state and prominent Trump supporter, was serving as an adviser to “We Build the Wall,” the group that raised more than $25 million to build the wall. “I talked with the president, and the ‘We Build the Wall Effort’ came up,” Kobach told the Times. “The president said ‘the project has my blessing, and you can tell the media that.’”
On Thursday, federal prosecutors unsealed an indictment charging Steve Bannon, Trump’s former campaign chairman, and three others involved with “We Build the Wall” with conspiracy to commit fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The defendants allegedly pocketed more than a million dollars of donations, despite repeated assurances to donors that all the money would go construction.
Trump tweeted last month that he disagreed with the plan to build a private section of wall:
I disagreed with doing this very small (tiny) section of wall, in a tricky area, by a private group which raised money by ads. It was only done to make me look bad, and perhsps it now doesn’t even work. Should have been built like rest of Wall, 500 plus miles. https://t.co/L8RUPCAhqc
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 12, 2020
There isn’t evidence that Trump knew about the alleged fraud, and he is continuing to distance himself from the project. “I feel very badly,” Trump said in the Oval Office on Thursday. “I haven’t been dealing with [Bannon] for a very long period of time…I don’t know anything about the project at all…I don’t like that project. I thought it was being done for showboating reasons.”