Updated: Sep 9
Republican Kris Kobach speaks during a Kansas Chamber of Commerce candidate forum. He told reporters after the event that he is assisting the legal closure of an operation to build a privately funded security wall at the U.S.-Mexico border that led to allegations of fraud. (Dylan Lysen/Kansas News Service)
Kansas Republican Kris Kobach says he’s working as an attorney to assist in the closure of the private border wall operation that led to Steve Bannon’s federal and state charges for allegedly defrauding thousands of contributors.
By Dylan Lysen, Kansas News Service
OLATHE — Republican attorney general nominee Kris Kobach says he’s helping to shut down a private group that wanted to build a wall on the Mexican border — and that’s at the heart of a fraud indictment of a close adviser to former President Donald Trump.
Steve Bannon surrendered himself on Thursday after being indicted on charges that the We Build the Wall group defrauded contributors. The organization received more than $20 million from thousands of contributors.
Kobach was also an adviser to Trump on immigration issues and performed legal work for We Build the Wall. He is not named in the Bannon indictment.
Kobach told reporters after a campaign event Wednesday night that the organization is no longer working to build a wall and he is assisting in its legal closure.
“You have to do an orderly shutdown of a corporation,” Kobach said. “There has to be some attorney involved to actually make it happen.”
Kobach said he has gotten to know Bannon, who’s also a right-wing radio host, well over the years. But the former Kansas secretary of state said he has no connection to the allegations of fraud against Bannon. He said the alleged incidents occurred before he was involved with We Build the Wall.
“They brought me on to figure out how you build on private land legally,” Kobach said. “That was my job.”
The unsealed indictment released on Thursday accuses Bannon of defrauding contributors between February and October 2019. He is charged with two counts of second-degree money laundering and one count of conspiracy.
The charges Bannon faces are similar to a 2020 federal case, where he was charged with wire fraud conspiracy and conspiracy to commit money laundering. But Trump pardoned Bannon just before he left office.
Kobach said he was listed as a witness for both the prosecution and the defense for the federal indictment. And he said he voluntarily provided investigators with emails related to the operation.
But Kobach said investigators made it clear to him that he is not in legal jeopardy.
Kobach faces Democratic candidate Chris Mann for Kansas attorney general in the November election. As secretary of state, he often pursued hot-button issues of voter fraud and illegal immigration.
He said Kansas voters should know he was involved in the wall-building operation because the country needs the security measure.
“It was a worthy cause and, absolutely, I did what I could to help,” Kobach said.
Dylan Lysen reports on politics for the Kansas News Service. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanLysen or email him at dlysen (at) kcur (dot) org.
The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy.
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