NEW YORK – Steve Bannon’s lawyers want out of his border-wall fraud case, telling a judge Thursday that he is unwilling to speak with them directly and that they have “irreconcilable" differences about how to proceed.
Bannon, a conservative rabble-rouser and longtime ally of former President Donald Trump, has until a Feb. 28 hearing to find new counsel, Judge Juan Manuel Merchan said. His current lawyers, David Schoen and John Mitchell, must stay on the case until then, the judge said.
“We just have a different view about strategy in the case and recognized that our differences about the approach to the case are irreconcilable,” Schoen said. “His approach could well be the right one, but he deserves a lawyer in sync with his view of the case. It is nothing personal. It is his case, and he should have it handled in the manner he wants.”
Bannon, 69, has pleaded not guilty to duping donors who gave money to build a wall on the southern U.S. border. The case, brought by New York prosecutors in November, is a state-level version of a federal case cut short in 2021 by a presidential pardon.
Bannon is charged with money laundering, conspiracy, fraud and other charges related to the “We Build the Wall” campaign. No trial date has been set, and Merchan questioned whether the lawyer dispute was a delay tactic. The case is effectively on hold while Bannon hires new lawyers and those lawyers get up to speed.
Manhattan prosecutors working in conjunction with the state attorney general’s office allege that although Bannon promised all donations would go to constructing the wall, he was involved in transferring hundreds of thousands of dollars to third-party entities and used them to funnel payments to two other people involved in the scheme.
In another case, Bannon was convicted in July of contempt charges for defying a congressional subpoena from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. He was sentenced in October to four months in jail, but remains free while he appeals.