Steve Bannon’s border wall project is broke. That’s what Kris Kobach, the former Kansas secretary of state and general counsel for the We Build The Wall project, told a federal judge in Texas on Thursday.
Even though the organization, co-founded by Bannon and Brian Kolfage, claims to have raised millions of dollars it pleaded poverty to U.S. District Judge Randy Crane during a status hearing on a pending civil lawsuit in McAllen, Texas. Speaking on behalf of the defendants, Kobach told the court it does not have the money pay for an attorney.
“The essence of it is that We Build The Wall has very limited funds right now to bring the ledger up to balance or close to balance,” Kobach told the court.
Bannon’s Wall project has been sued by the North American Butterfly Association, which claims it has been negatively impacted by the 3.5 miles of wall the organization constructed on private land along the banks of the Rio Grande south of Mission, Texas. In the hearing McAllen attorney David Oliveira told the judge his law firm has not been paid in more than a year for legal services it rendered to the Wall project in defense of the lawsuit. Crane granted Oliviera’s request to withdraw from the case. The judge gave the organization 30 days to find new representation, rejecting the group’s request for a 90-day pause.
“It might be expensive and few of us have the assets right now to cover a retainer,” Kobach said. “So we are willing to let counsel step aside but we would like a fairly generous bit of time to find local counsel and also perhaps have a picture of what it involves.”
Crane rejected that plea, saying “This case just keeps getting delayed and delayed; 90 days seems like a long time.” The judge added, “Finding a lawyer I don’t think is a big problem. I think finding a lawyer who is willing to risk not getting paid is probably the issue here.”
Bannon, former chief strategist in Donald Trump’s White House, is alleged to have siphoned more than $1 million in donations, keeping much of it for himself and funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars to Kolfage, a disabled Air Force veteran with whom he operated the campaign. On his way out the door the twice-impeached former president issued a pardon to Bannon for federal fraud charges related the project, although the former Trump adviser still faces New York state fraud charges. Kolfage has been indicted on multiple federal and state fraud and tax evasion charges for his role in the scheme.