President Trump on Thursday said he feels “very badly” about the arrest of Stephen Bannon, but added that he hasn’t dealt with his former White House chief strategist in a long time and called the fundraising project with which Bannon was connected “inappropriate.”
“I feel very badly. I haven’t been dealing with him for a very long period of time, as most of the people in this room know,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. “Haven’t been dealing with him at all.”
Bannon was arrested Thursday and charged with defrauding hundreds of thousands of people as part of a group that promised to build a section of border wall using private money. The We Build The Wall project raised $25 million to fund its own barriers in Texas and New Mexico, some of which have been built.
Bannon was arrested on a 150-foot yacht off the coast of Westport, Connecticut, NBC News reported.
“I know nothing about the project other than I didn’t like when I read about it, I didn’t like it. I said, this is for government,” Trump said. “This isn’t for private people. And it sounded to me like showboating. And I think I let my opinion be very strongly stated at the time. I didn’t like it. It was showboating and maybe looking for funds, but you’ll have to see what happens. I think it’s a very sad thing for Mr. Bannon.
“I think it’s surprising. But this was something is you know, just by reading social media and by reading, whatever it is, and by speaking to Mike and Mike and all of them, I didn’t like that project. I thought that was a project that was being done for showboating reasons. I don’t know that he was in charge. I didn’t know any of the other people even. But it’s, it’s sad it’s very sad,” the president said.
Trump was asked if the charges indicate a “culture of lawlessness” in his administration.
“There was lawlessness in the Obama administration. They spied on our campaign illegally. And if you look at all of the things and all of the scandals they had, they had tremendous lawlessness. But I know nothing about — I was not involved in the project. I have no idea who was. But I can tell you I didn’t know the people that — three people that were talked about were people that I did not know. I don’t believe I ever met them. I don’t think that should be a privately financed wall. I don’t think — it’s too complex. It’s too big.”
Trump said his administration is making progress on the border barrier without private help.
“We’re now up to 300 miles almost — in another week we can have — we will be up to 300 miles of wall at the highest level. They were even having construction problems. I was reading, the little I know about it I got from you. I was reading where they were having construction problems with the wall that they were — they had a small area just to show people they could build a wall and they were having a lot of problems where it was toppling over and other things. And I didn’t like it because I didn’t want to be associated with that. We’ve built a very powerful wall. It was a wall that is virtually impossible to get through. It’s very, very tough. It’s very strong. And it’s everything the Border Patrol wanted. And I didn’t want to have a wall that was going to be an inferior wall, and I felt this was going to be an inferior wall.”
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany also released a statement in response to the Bannon indictment.
“As everyone knows, President Trump has no involvement in this project and felt it was only being done in order to showboat, and perhaps raise funds. President Trump has previously and publicly stated the following”:
“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 perhaps it now doesn’t even work. Should have been built like rest of Wall, 500 plus miles.: – President Trump, July 12, 2020.
“President Trump has always felt the Wall must be a government project and that it is far too big and complex to be handled privately. The Trump Administration has already built over 300 miles of border wall, thanks to the great work of our Army Corps of Engineers, and will have almost 500 miles completed by the end of the year. Our southern border is more secure than it has ever been,” McEnany added.
“President Trump has not been involved with Steve Bannon since the campaign and the early part of the Administration, and he does not know the people involved with this project,” she said.
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