Donald Trump Jr praised the “We Build the Wall” crowdfunding campaign in a clip that has resurfaced following the arrest of its founder Brian Kolfage – as the White House attempts to distance his father from the group.
On Thursday, Kolfage was arrested and indicted along with three others, including former Donald Trump adviser Steve Bannon, with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering while raising money for the campaign to build the US-Mexico border wall.
Bannon, Andrew Badolato, and Timothy Shea have been accused of funnelling “hundreds of thousands of dollars” from the online fundraising campaign to Kolfage.
The campaign founder then allegedly took “more than $350,000 (£265,336) in funds” that had been “donated to ‘We Build The Wall’ for his personal use,” the criminal complaint reads.
In a clip from 2018, that was posted on Twitter on Thursday by CNN reporter Andrew Kaczynski, the president’s eldest child praised Kolfage and the campaign.
“Brian thanks so much for all your sacrifices, doing this and showing really what capitalism’s all about,” he said. “This is private enterprise at its finest. Doing it better, faster, cheaper than anything else.
“What you guys are doing is pretty amazing. Started from a grassroots effort and it’s just doing some wonderful things for an important issue,” Mr Trump Jr added.
“We Build the Wall” started as a GoFundMe campaign in 2018, and was created to help raise money from public funding to go directly towards building the wall at a time when the president was struggling with Congress pushback.
Kolfage repeatedly insisted in social media posts and campaign emails that he would not make any money from the project, according to Buzzfeed.
“I made a promise that I would NEVER take a penny 100% of fundraising,” Kolfage wrote on social media, according to court documents. “Donations will only go towards the wall. 100% means 100% right? Board won’t see any of that money!”
However, prosecutors allege that he spent money from the campaign on “home renovations, payments toward a boat, a luxury SUV, a golf cart, jewellery, cosmetic surgery, personal tax payments, and credit card debt.”
Bannon, who previously served as the president’s campaign chairman and White House chief strategist, has also been accused of using the funds for his own personal expenses.
In reaction to the arrests on Thursday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany released a statement, where she attempted to distance the president from the campaign and Bannon.
“As everyone knows, President Trump has no involvement in this project and felt it was only being done in order to showboat, and perhaps raise funds,” she said.
A follow up statement from the White House read: “President Trump has not been involved with Steve Bannon since the campaign and the early part of the administration, and he does not know the people involved with this project.”
However, Trump ally Kris Kobach told the New York Times last year that he had spoken to Mr Trump about the project, and added that “the president said ‘the project has my blessing, and you can tell the media that.’”
The Independent has contacted the White House for comment.