Stephen K. Bannon, who received a last-minute pardon from former President Donald J. Trump after being indicted on federal charges of defrauding donors to a border wall, may yet face state charges in connection with the same scheme.
The Manhattan district attorney’s office has begun investigating Mr. Bannon’s role in the fund-raising project for the wall and is also considering opening an investigation into Ken Kurson, who was also pardoned by Mr. Trump after he was charged with federal crimes related to cyberstalking and harassment, according to three people familiar with the matter.
The decision to open an investigation into Mr. Bannon’s conduct and to consider doing so in the case of Mr. Kurson — a friend of the former president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner — came after Manhattan prosecutors reviewed the list of the 143 pardons and commutations issued in the last hours of Mr. Trump’s term in office, one of the people familiar with the matter said.
The president’s power to pardon only applies to federal crimes, not state ones.
In his final weeks in office, Mr. Trump embarked on a spree of pardons and commutations, using the clemency powers of his office to help friends and political allies who had become entangled with the criminal justice system, including his longtime adviser Roger J. Stone Jr. and his former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn.
Prosecutors in the office of the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., a Democrat, have taken significant steps in their investigation of Mr. Bannon, including seeking records and requesting to interview at least one potential witness, two of the people familiar with the investigation said.
A spokesman for the district attorney’s office declined to comment on the investigation, as did a spokesman for the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan, which brought the federal charges against Mr. Bannon in August.
Robert J. Costello, a lawyer for Mr. Bannon, said, “We don’t comment on speculation.”
Marc L. Mukasey, who represents Mr. Kurson and appeared on his behalf in the federal case but was not involved in the pardon, said, “We have heard nothing from the D.A.’s office.” He added, “The facts and the law are on Ken’s side, and we believe that no reasonable prosecutor would go forward.”
In August, the federal indictment accused Mr. Bannon, a former White House strategist who helped Mr. Trump ascend to the presidency in 2016, and three other men of cheating donors to We Build the Wall, an organization devoted to the construction of at least 100 miles of barrier on private land at the U.S. southern border.
The indictment charged the men with having diverted some of the funds they had raised for their own personal use. According to court documents, Mr. Bannon received more than $1 million from the group.
Mr. Bannon’s co-defendants — Brian Kolfage, an Air Force veteran who was the face of the project; Andrew Badolato; and Timothy Shea — were not pardoned by Mr. Trump, and still face charges. They have pleaded not guilty, as Mr. Bannon did before he was pardoned.
Mr. Kurson, a former editor of The New York Observer who is also a longtime associate of Rudolph W. Giuliani, faced the federal charges of cybercrime and harassment in connection with the dissolution of his marriage in 2015. He was accused of having stalked a Manhattan doctor, her colleague and the colleague’s spouse.
The Washington Post first reported on Tuesday that the office was considering whether to bring state charges against Mr. Bannon.
The scrutiny of Mr. Bannon and, potentially, Mr. Kurson would not be the prosecutor’s first foray into Mr. Trump’s orbit. For more than a year, Mr. Vance’s office has been investigating Mr. Trump and his family business in connection with an array of potential financial crimes, including tax and insurance fraud.
The district attorney is awaiting a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court as to whether he is entitled to see Mr. Trump’s tax returns and other records as part of that inquiry. The court has already ruled in favor of Mr. Vance once, declaring that the then-president did not have the right to block the release of records sought by the district attorney.
Mr. Vance has positioned his office as a check against the presidential pardon process before, but has been unsuccessful so far. In 2019, he charged Paul J. Manafort, Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman who had been convicted of federal crimes in 2018, with mortgage fraud and more than a dozen other state felonies.
The charges were widely viewed at the time as a way to ensure Mr. Manafort would be brought to justice, even if he were to later receive a presidential pardon. But a judge threw out the state charges, ruling that they violated a state law against double jeopardy, which bars defendants being tried twice for the same offense.
In the end, Mr. Manafort was pardoned by Mr. Trump in December. Mr. Vance’s office has appealed the case.
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