Despite Donald Trump Pardon, Steve Bannon Could Still Face State Charges

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon was one of the most high-profile recipients of a presidential pardon on President Donald Trump's last full day in office on Tuesday.

Federal prosecutors in New York had charged Bannon with fraud in New York arising from a non-profit called "We Build the Wall," an online effort to raise money to build a wall along the southern border with Mexico.

Trump's pardon means Bannon will not now be at risk of conviction and imprisonment by federal authorities. However, several legal commentators have suggested Bannon could still face state charges for his alleged crimes.

Former Department of Justice Department attorney Michael Zeldin made the point on Twitter on Tuesday.

"What Bannon did likely violated state financial crime laws so he may still face criminal charges in multiple states as well as civil lawsuits for his fraud. Stay tuned, he's not out of the woods yet," Zeldin said.

Bannon was accused of receiving over $1 million from "We Build the Wall" and using at least some of it to cover hundreds of thousands of dollars in personal expenses.

The Southern District of New York (SDNY)—a federal jurisdiction—alleged the scheme to defraud the non-profit, but as some legal experts have pointed out, the allegations could be revisited by state-level prosecutors.

"And now the feds at SDNY need to walk the Bannon case file across the street to the Manhattan DA. Theft is theft, it's a state crime too," CNN legal analyst Elie Honig tweeted.

MSNBC legal analyst Glenn Kirschner, a former prosecutor, agreed that Bannon could now face state charges despite receiving a pardon from the president, tweeting: "The pardon kills the SDNY case (which is federal). Time for the New York state prosecutors to get after Bannon."

Conservative lawyer George Conway, a strong critic of the president who was involved with the anti-Trump Lincoln Project, also doubted the pardon would save Bannon from prosecution.

"I'm not sure how the pardon really helps Bannon at the end of the day. Because he's accused of what is really garden-variety criminal fraud, it can be charged anywhere the fraud reached," Conway said.

"And because it was an online fraud, that's basically everywhere. Wouldn't be surprised if a state prosecutor now makes a case. The federal pardon can't stop that."

Presidential pardons only cover federal offenses and the president has no power to pardon crimes charged by state prosecutors. Trump issued dozens of pardons and commutations on Tuesday before he officially leaves office on Wednesday.

Newsweek has asked Bannon for comment.

 Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon
Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon exits the Manhattan Federal Court on August 20, 2020 in the Manhattan borough of New York City. Bannon received a pardon from President Donald Trump on Tuesday. Stephanie Keith/Getty Images