Trump Supported the Private Border Wall at the Center of a Fraud Case, a Close Ally Said

He’s since distanced himself from the project.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), left, and Brian Kolfage, the head of We Build the Wall, overlook the privately funded fence along the US-Mexico border in Sunland Park, New Mexico, last year.Joel Angel Juarez/ZUMA

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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:

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.”

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This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

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