Kobach in 2019: Trump was 'enthusiastic' about 'We Build the Wall' project

Kris Kobach, the former Kansas secretary of state and ally of President TrumpDonald TrumpRealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump Jake Ellzey defeats Trump-backed candidate in Texas House runoff DOJ declines to back Mo Brooks's defense against Swalwell's Capitol riot lawsuit MORE, said in a 2019 interview that he’d spoken with Trump three times about the private border wall construction effort that is now at the heart of a federal fraud investigation.

Kobach said on an episode of the "We Build The Wall" show in May 2019 that Trump was "enthusiastic" about the project and gave it his blessing.

"I've spoken to the President about this project on three occasions now," Kobach, the general counsel and a board member for the project, said at the time. "And he said — the first time I told him about it — he said, 'Well, you tell the guys at We Build The Wall, that they have my blessing.' And he used those exact words."

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"And he's continually, I've met with ... or talk[ed] with him on the phone periodically, and I just spoke with him about it," he continued. "I want to say about a week and a half ago, keeping him up to speed on our progress as well. So he's enthusiastic." 

Kobach, who also later served on Trump's voter fraud commission in 2017 and ran for governor of Kansas in 2018, made several other comments about Trump’s approval of the project, saying in another video from the group that the president "expressed a clear enthusiasm for it."

Kobach’s comments were first reported by CNN's KFile on Friday.

Former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon and three others were arrested and charged with defrauding hundreds of thousands of donors who contributed to the We Build The Wall project, which sought to raise funds for a private border wall. The project raised more than $25 million.

The four men are facing charges including one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Each charge carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years. 

"As alleged, the defendants defrauded hundreds of thousands of donors, capitalizing on their interest in funding a border wall to raise millions of dollars, under the false pretense that all of that money would be spent on construction," acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said. 

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Trump sought to distance himself from the effort Thursday, calling the fundraising project “inappropriate.” 

“I feel very badly. I haven't been dealing with him for a very long period of time, as most of the people in this room know,” Trump said, adding that Bannon only served in the administration for a short time and that he has no knowledge about We Build The Wall.

“I didn’t like it, it was showboating and maybe looking for funds. But you’ll have to see what happens,” he continued.