Steve Bannon and Jeffrey Epstein
What was that relationship really about?
If you follow the news, you know the name Steve Bannon. He’s Trump’s emissary to the alt-right, the former head of Breitbart who is dodging inquiries from the January 6 commission, who got in trouble and was pardoned by Trump.
Bannon is also a Jeffrey Epstein buddy who, according to several reports, visited Epstein’s houses on multiple continents, and spent hours prepping Epstein for a 60 Minutes interview that never happened. When Epstein invited a reporter to dinner it was with Bannon.
Maybe your brain is imagining how those two things fit together, like they’re just two lumps in some kind of rich guy stew.
I see at least four other aspects:
First up in my craw is this oddity: Do we know how Bannon and Epstein met? I have a lot of questions about Steve Bannon’s business history, which put him in the vicinity of Leon Black, Epstein’s key funder, and the founder of Apollo Global, the NBA’s most important source of cash. Black recently resigned from Apollo Global after it was revealed Black bankrolled Epstein to the tune of $158 million. Black is another character who hung out at Epstein’s mansion, and consulted with Epstein, by his own admission, on the most sensitive matters.
Bannon and Black both worked in finance, in Beverly Hills, in the 1980s, and had significant proximity in their business careers. In the 1980s, Black reportedly knew Epstein and worked at Drexel Burnham Lambert, which was unusual in that it was a big New York bank whose key operations were in Beverly Hills (where all sorts of stuff happened with young women, used as sexual playthings to induce business).
Interestingly, Bannon moved to Beverly Hills in the 1980s when the big New York bank he worked for at the time, Goldman Sachs, decided to open its own operation there, likely in response to Drexel’s success. Black and Bannon existed in the same small world of Beverly Hills of the late 1980s.
And then around 1990, as Drexel fell apart, Leon Black, Steve Bannon, and Robert Maxwell all reportedly did big deals with the same crime-ridden French bank: Credit Lyonnais. What exactly happened in that case is a little hard to say. The downtown Paris headquarters burned to the ground around the time investigators were due to show up.
The second funky component of this: In 2020, just off Westbrook, Connecticut, the coast guard and law enforcement stormed the superyacht of Bannon’s business partner in a media startup: fugitive Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui. But they weren’t there to arrest Guo. They were there to arrest Bannon, on allegations he had siphoned money from a Trump-related charity. (Trump later pardoned Bannon.)
Here’s where it gets crazy, though: Take a look at Guo’s story of business success. It might sound a little familiar. Cui Xiankang, Yu Ning and Liu Ran report for Caixin Global:
Sources close to Guo said he has used his luxury hotels, including the ones in Yuda International Center in Zhengzhou and the Pangu Plaza in Beijing, to host high-level officials to develop connections.
Sources said he collected evidence of wrongdoing by officials by secretly shooting videos of them living in luxury and engaging in affairs so that he could blackmail them later and help his business interests.
The third “this feels odd” coincidence here is that Guo’s most important source of cash is the same as Apollo Global’s most important source of cash: the royal family of the United Arab Emirates. If you haven’t already read our earlier reports, that royal family has deep ties to children and women being used as sexual playthings to gain power. They were invested with both Leon Black’s Apollo and Guo Wengui at the same time, while Black was bankrolling Epstein.
The fourth little note: Both Epstein and Guo have been accused, many times and many ways, of working for intelligence agencies.
Here is a Bannon-based timeline.
1985: STEVE BANNON WORKS AT GOLDMAN SACHS
While the men who would go on to found Drexel were pioneering new ways to take control of companies, starting in 1985, Bannon worked mainly in helping companies prevent takeovers. A couple of years in, Bannon moved to Beverly Hills, where Drexel was based.
1980s: GOLDMAN SACHS DOES BUSINESS WITH ROBERT MAXWELL
As we have previously noted, Craig Unger’s book American Kompromat reports that Maxwell designed a secret plan, on behalf of Russian Intelligence, to launch 600 front companies to buy oil, steel, and aluminum at a fraction of the market price, then sell them for billions in profits. “Then with billions in profits,” Unger writes, “they could go on to establish authentic trading relationships that went to the heart of Western capitalism.”
Goldman Sachs “actively cultivated a broad-based relationship with Maxwell,” according to the L.A. Times, in an article that suggests many banks did similarly. (I’ve seen no suggestion that Bannon worked on Maxwell’s account.) According to Unger, Maxwell helped Russia’s KGB move billions offshore through front companies and conglomerates. Many banks did a lot of business with Maxwell, but Goldman was evidently a big player, as evidenced by the hundreds of millions in the bank lost when Maxwell’s business fell apart around the time of his death. Goldman was investigated for criminal wrongdoing in its dealings with Maxwell, and cleared.
1986: JEFFREY EPSTEIN FOCUSES ON LEON BLACK
Journalist Jesse Kornbluth told his former colleague Unger that he met Epstein long before Apollo Global.
At the time, Kornbluth said, Epstein was spending a lot of time with Leon Black, the multibillionaire investor who was then managing director of Drexel Burnham Lambert, at that point one of the biggest investment banks in the country. … “Epstein and I talked about Leon Black,” Kornbluth told me.
1990s: BANNON MAKES MOVIES FROM HITLER’S PLAYBOOK
Bannon earns a reputation in Hollywood for making very ideological right-wing films, for instance in praise of Ronald Reagan, and an anti-Islam movie called In the Face of Evil. “What I’ve tried to do,” says Bannon, “is weaponize film.” In the New Yorker, Connie Bruck quotes Bannon’s screenwriting partner Julia Jones:
She described how Bannon admired the documentary films made by the Nazi propagandist Leni Riefenstahl, such as “Triumph of the Will”: “Her playbook was key for him. I think he used her technique of fear, which you can see in that movie.”
1990: CREDIT LYONNAIS MAKES A BIG DEAL WITH ROBERT MAXWELL
When Maxwell died, many banks found they had been stiffed. Credit Lyonnais, according to the L.A. Times, was “widely described as the biggest loser.” In other words, Credit Lyonnais was one of Robert Maxwell’s most important banks. Credit Lyonnais’ renegade lending during this period eventually led to a massive taxpayer bailout of the bank, and a bank executive behind bars.
1990ish: CREDIT LYONNAIS MAKES A BIG DEAL WITH STEVE BANNON
Connie Bruck in the New Yorker:
Bannon moved from New York to Los Angeles in 1987, to help Goldman expand its presence in the entertainment business. Two years later, Bannon and a senior colleague struck out on their own, opening a small investment company in Beverly Hills. According to Bannon, the firm’s clients over the next half-dozen or so years included Crédit Lyonnais, M-G-M, and PolyGram.
1990: CREDIT LYONNAIS CREATES APOLLO GLOBAL WITH LEON BLACK
On the Apollo Global website, the story of Apollo’s founding is that Credit Lyonnais cold-called Leon Black and offered him vast sums to found Apollo Global (which Black did with 76ers billionaire Josh Harris and others).
1990-91: JEFFREY EPSTEIN IN BUSINESS WITH ROBERT MAXWELL
Craig Unger’s American Kompromat describes the period before Maxwell’s November 1991 death:
In the last year of his life, Maxwell likely put a significant sum—probably between $10 million and $20 million—in Epstein’s hands … Epstein may have been trying to keep Maxwell’s assets out of the hands of his creditors … the mystery of what happened to Maxwell’s millions may also be the answer to questions about Epstein’s wealth.
1991: ROBERT MAXWELL DIES
After his body is found floating off his yacht, his daughter Ghislaine Maxwell reportedly shreds many of the documents, and takes charge of many of his business affairs. In the years to follow she would move to New York, and enter a relationship with Epstein—for aspects of which she is on trial right now.
1992: A UNITED ARAB EMIRATES-TIED COMPANY EXPERIMENTS WITH MIND CONTROL
Sam Knight reports in The New Yorker about the early days of the S.C.L. group, which later had an American branch called Cambridge Analytica, where Bannon became vice president and secretary of the board. It was founded in part in the United Arab Emirates, where as we have reported, the royal family has fascinating and profound ties to Apollo Global, Leon Black, Jeffrey Epstein, the NBA, and others in this story—and also became an S.C.L. client (see below).
“It was ‘Game of Thrones’-y shit,” the employee said. S.C.L. was dominated by two charismatic Old Etonians: Nigel Oakes, the company’s founder, who is based in Dubai; and Alexander (Bertie) Nix, whose mother remains a shareholder. (Nix was the chief executive of Cambridge Analytica, and is currently suspended from the company.)
“There were always going to be dodgy fuckers willing to work for rich people, and the S.C.L. was just an example of the dodgy fucker.”
“We use the same techniques as Aristotle and Hitler,” Oakes told Marketing, in 1992. “We appeal to people on an emotional level to get them to agree on a functional level.”
Early 2000s: BANNON WORKS AT JEFFRIES
Connie Bruck reports in the New Yorker that Bannon’s small firm was acquired by a French bank.
In 1998, the company was acquired by an offshoot of the French bank Société Générale, and he remained there for a couple of years. He had brief stints at Jefferies, an investment bank, and at a talent-management company, the Firm, as a strategic adviser.
As we have discussed on TrueHoop before, Jeffries is run by Rich Handler, a former colleague of Leon Black’s at Drexel Burnham Lambert, who has been Tilman Fertitta’s key banker.
2007: UNITED ARAB EMIRATES INVESTMENT IN APOLLO GLOBAL
When Apollo was up against it in the 2007 financial crisis, they turned to the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority—the very institution that owned a huge percentage of scandal-ridden BCCI. More about that here.
2011: JOSH HARRIS INVESTS IN THE 76ERS
Apollo Global co-founder Josh Harris leads a group of friends from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School in purchasing the 76ers.
2011: FORMER CIA EXECUTIVE A.B. “BUZZY” KRONGARD JOINS APOLLO’S BOARD
About the same time, Apollo purchased the controversial, CIA-tied military contractor formerly known as Blackwater, which would go on to play a big role in the United Arab Emirates. More on Krongard here.
2011: STEVE BANNON MEETS THE MERCERS
Per Connie Bruck’s reporting, billionaire Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah took a shine to Bannon at a 2011 meeting, and the Mercers began to finance many of Bannon’s projects.
2013: THE MERCERS INVEST IN CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA
Soon after the Mercers invest in S.C.L.’s American arm, Cambridge Analytica, Steve Bannon is installed as a vice president and secretary of the board. (Michael Flynn also later became an advisor.) Jane Mayer reports in The New Yorker about a firm that has often been accused of “mind control”:
Some critics suggest that, at this point, Cambridge Analytica’s self-promotion exceeds its effectiveness. But Jonathan Albright, an assistant professor of communications at Elon University, in North Carolina, recently published a paper, on Medium, calling Cambridge Analytica a “propaganda machine.”
2013: GUO WENGUI COURTS INVESTMENT FROM UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
The Abu Dhabi Royal Family, which holds a good portion of Apollo Global, also reportedly invests with Guo Wengui.
2016: RUSSIA INFLUENCES 2016 ELECTION BY BOOSTING BREITBART
St. Petersburg’s Internet Research Agency, backed by the Kremlin, set out to meddle in the 2016 U.S. elections. A primary technique: boosting Breitbart content.
2016-2017: REBEKAH MERCER ADVOCATES FOR MICHAEL FLYNN
Bannon’s benefactors, the Mercers, become arguably the most influential donors to the Trump campaign. After the victory, Rebekah uses her influence, according to Jane Mayer’s reporting in The New Yorker, to advocate for Michael Flynn, who would quickly lose his job over his Russia ties.
2017: S.C.L. GROUP SECRETLY WORKS FOR UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
Early in the Trump administration, a coalition of nations led by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, with the support of Bannon and others in the Trump administration, mount a blockade against Qatar. Dexter Filkins reports in The New Yorker that Bannon’s recent employer, the S.C.L. group, played a secret role.
As the conflict wore on, op-ed writers and social-media posts kept up a drumbeat against Qatar. Many of them came from a curious source: the SCL Group, the parent company of the political-research firm Cambridge Analytica. (Before the election, Bannon was a vice-president of Cambridge Analytica, which was financed by Robert Mercer, the billionaire investor and Trump supporter.) SCL had been retained by the Emirati government; this was not known at the time, because the firm did not declare to the U.S. government that it was working for the U.A.E. until the following month.
2017: GUO’S ACCOUNTS, FLUSH WITH U.A.E. CASH, REPORTEDLY FROZEN
The government of China reportedly asked several major banks to freeze the accounts of fugitive businessman Guo Wengui for corruption charges involving billions of dollars.
2017: BANNON ON NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL
The National Security Council is seen as a place to protect from politics, but Trump put his political advisor there all the same. Reportedly the decision had something to do with Michael Flynn, in the short time he was Trump’s National Security Advisor before resigning over his undisclosed Russia connections. The manner of the re-shuffle effectively elevated Trump’s campaign manager, Bannon, above the head of national intelligence. Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman report for The New York Times:
But the defining moment for Mr. Bannon came Saturday night in the form of an executive order giving the rumpled right-wing agitator a full seat on the “principals committee” of the National Security Council — while downgrading the roles of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence, who will now attend only when the council is considering issues in their direct areas of responsibilities. It is a startling elevation of a political adviser, to a status alongside the secretaries of state and defense, and over the president’s top military and intelligence advisers.
A few months later, Bannon was removed. Rosie Gray in the Atlantic:
George W. Bush, for example, did not allow his top political adviser Karl Rove into NSC meetings. The controversy over Bannon’s role with the NSC reinforced Bannon’s public image as a kind of Svengali pulling the strings behind Trump.
2017: BANNON ALL-IN FOR ROY MOORE
Many thought the Alabama Republican couldn’t win a Senate seat after nine women alleged Moore molested or assaulted them while they were teenagers. Bannon, however, campaigns at Moore’s side, even when it upsets Ivanka Trump.
2018: THE SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE
“Steve Bannon and I have a common friend,” Leon Black tells the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2018, “and I went over to see my friend and Bannon was meeting him for breakfast. And so on two occasions I spent time talking to Steve Bannon.”
The friend they have in common is Allen Vine, whom Black describes as the “consigliere” for oligarch Suleiman Kerimov. Kerimov is a) seen as close to Putin and b) someone who invested billions in Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse, and other blue-chip financial institutions. Epstein had ties to all of those institutions.
According to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report, Leon Black also knows Putin-connected oligarch Oleg Deripaska. “In 2018,” writes The New York Times, “the Treasury Department imposed sanctions against Mr. Deripaska and his mammoth aluminum company, saying he had profited from the ‘malign activities’ of Russia around the world. In announcing the sanctions, the Trump administration cited accusations that Mr. Deripaska had been accused of extortion, racketeering, bribery, links to organized crime and even ordering the murder of a businessman.” In 2019, the Trump Administration cut a deal with Deripaska over the sanctions, but in 2021 U.S. properties connected to Deripaska were raided in a sanctions-related investigation.
2019: BANNON CHATS WITH EPSTEIN, EHUD BARAK
Michael Wolff’s book Too Famous includes tales from Wolff’s time at Epstein’s mansion, often with former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak. Wolff calls Barak “a fixture” there, and Barak apparently invested with Epstein. Wolff reports that Bannon called Epstein and told him: “You were the only person I was afraid of during the campaign' because he thought he had dangerous secrets on Trump.”
Epstein replied: “As well you should have been,” which, if true, confirms many suspicions about Epstein’s bigger game. Craig Unger’s book American Kompromat has specific reporting on alleged embarrassing photos Epstein had of Trump with young women. (Epstein also called Trump a “moron,” and said he believed that Attorney General Bill Barr was really in charge. Epstein and Barr have connections.)
Wolff writes that Bannon looked at a photo of Epstein with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and Epstein that was hanging on the wall.
Epstein said: 'Do you know why he's laughing?'
Bannon said: 'Because he just cut up Khashoggi?' referring to Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi American Washington Post journalist who was dismembered in the Saudi embassy in Istanbul.
Epstein said: 'No, because I just told him I smuggled girls into the kingdom dressed as airline stewardesses—the penalty for which is', at which point Epstein brought down an imaginary saber.
That book also has insight into Epstein’s reported prepping, with Bannon, for a 60 Minutes interview, which included a racist exchange about basketball players:
Epstein says: 'They (black people) can do great mathematics, they just have to be playing basketball at the same time.
'Seriously, when blacks learn...one of the nice things about basketball is that they are moving around.
'Blacks learn really well when they are moving around. And in American schools you tell Blacks to sit in their chairs.'
It’s worth pausing to understand how strange it is that Bannon was reportedly hanging out with, and offering political advice and cover to, a Jewish pedophile who has been alleged to have worked with the Israeli Mossad Intelligence Agency. And with Ehud Barak, a former prime minister of Israel.
Bannon is an icon of America’s alt-right. In Connie Bruck’s detailed profile of Bannon—likely the most thorough portrait of him ever written—Bruck catalogs a 2007 battle over private schooling that spread to the courts. A key issue was Bannon’s concern that his daughters would attend a school with too many Jewish students. Bannon’s views on Israel are all over the place, from calling himself a Zionist to praising Richard Spencer, who has said Jews should be banned from the United States.
Charles Johnson, a conservative provocateur, worked with Bannon at Breitbart News, the right-wing website Bannon led for several years, and also got the impression that Bannon’s visits to Epstein involved the intelligence world.
Johnson says that Bannon made several visits to Epstein’s New York mansion after he was ousted from the White House in August 2017. “He also offered to introduce me to him at one point,” Johnson tells Rolling Stone. (Johnson declined the offer.) “What I was told about that meeting by people close to Bannon was that he was trying to replace Epstein as a source for information from various intelligence networks. He saw Epstein as a rival or a partner but he wanted what Epstein had.”
2012-2017: LEON BLACK PAYS EPSTEIN $158 MILLION
Exactly why is a central mystery of Epstein and Black’s lives, and widely seen as the reason Leon Black stepped down from the company he created.
AUGUST 2020: BANNON CHARGED WITH FRAUD
Bannon was arrested on Guo Wengui’s yacht off Connecticut. Although he was pardoned by Donald Trump before facing trial, the judge in the case says Steve Bannon siphoned $1 million from a charity called We Build the Wall.
NOVEMBER 2021: BANNON INDICTED FOR CONTEMPT OF CONGRESS
A subpoena from the committee investigating January 6 notes that Bannon predicted “all hell” breaking loose the day before rioters stormed the Capitol, and that Bannon attended apparent planning meetings. Bannon refuses to testify, and as a result faces contempt charges, with a trial set for July. In the New Yorker, David Rohde assesses the risk of Steve Bannon. He quotes former prosecutor David Laufman who asks: “What can be of greater interest than an attack on the heart of democracy in the United States?”
ONE OTHER THING
I would prefer not to linger on the topic of mind control. What’s happening in this story is very serious, I’d hate for it to come off as silly by including something that, admittedly, sounds a little nuts.
But it’s also not something we can dismiss easily. It has been a major focus of decades of intelligence research. (We have told the story here on TrueHoop of a Russian soldier who volunteered to fight in Russia’s civil war against Chechnya—and only later came to the conclusion that Chechnya had never been the enemy, but instead that he had been brainwashed by televised propaganda.) Mind control was the obsession of Allen Dulles, a key founder of the CIA. It was also a focus of the S.C.L. Group and Cambridge Analytica. Epstein reportedly bought books on it. Bannon studied the filmmaking of Hitler’s lead propagandist and is involved in efforts like Breitbart and GNews which appear designed to have a radicalizing effect. People who knew Epstein—like his former business partner Steven Hoffenberg and several of his alleged sexual victims—say he had an incredible ability to coerce. QAnon—a conspiracy theory in which Flynn is among the most prominent voices and Bannon a vocal supporter—has all the trappings of a cult.
The caricature of mind control is the movie the Manchurian Candidate, where a politician is controlled by others into executing plans that weren’t of his devising. Allen Dulles wanted to know how to make that happen and, reportedly, mostly failed. Many allege that with the help of kompromat, Epstein achieved similar things, pulling the strings of the rich and powerful.
And now, in 2021, people are entering politics specifically because and specifically how Steve Bannon told them to.
ProPublica quotes Rick Barnes, the head of the Fort Worth Republican party saying that his office has been flooded with people requesting to become “precinct committeemen.” This was a little befuddling, because his party doesn’t have a position called that. (They do have the title “precinct chair.”)
Why were all these people seeking a position of political influence that didn’t exist?
One of the most popular podcasts in the world is called Steve Bannon’s War Room. And ProPublica demonstrates, just a short while before Barnes’ phone started ringing, Bannon’s podcast guest outlined a strategy to take over the Republican party from the bottom up, by volunteering as “precinct committeemen.” (The same guest also elsewhere directed those volunteers to bring baseball bats.)
In other words, people are entering politics, across America, right now, because Steve Bannon told them to. They’re using his show’s exact, incorrect terminology.
Add to that the reality that an incredible number of people around Bannon—Jeffrey Epstein, Robert Maxwell, Drexel Burnham Lambert, Leon Black, Guo Wengui, Roy Moore—have some kind of history of sexual coercion, from women paid to be attractive at parties to much worse. And the money flows in murky, but similar, ways around all of these people and entities, with Credit Lyonnais the United Arab Emirates making repeat appearances.
Why is Bannon so frequently in league with such men? I don’t know the answer, but I’m aware that big propaganda efforts, and “honey traps,” are often the stuff of intelligence.
Thank you for reading TrueHoop! This is part of a much bigger series.
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PART 1: Apollo Global, deep pockets with ties to the NBA, Jeffrey Epstein, and Buzzy
PART 2: The earliest days of Sears Roebuck, the CIA, and United Fruit
PART 3: 1950s and 60s: Buzzy at Princeton, the CIA messes with mind control, Leon Black’s dad
PART 4: Beverly Hills in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s
PART 5: Buzzy the banker.
PART 6: In business with criminals
PART 7: Everyone in this story owns planes
PART 8: “The biggest crime in American history”
PART 9: “A stealth invasion of the U.S. banking industry”
PART 10: Jeffrey Epstein’s tutor
PART 11: Richard Nixon and Adnan Khashoggi
PART 12: The Dechert Report
PART 13: Nazis at the Waldorf Astoria
PART 14: Hitler’s American business friends
PART 15: Epstein teaches at private school
PART 16: The Emirates and the NBA
PART 17: Pablo Escobar in a Celtics hat
PART 18: A new kind of superrich
PART 19: The NBA goes to Abu Dhabi
PART 20: Steve Bannon and Jeffrey Epstein
PART 21: A Robert Ludlum spy thriller