White House adviser Stephen K. Bannon probably did not intend to live in Miami when he registered to vote there in 2014, but there is not enough evidence to charge him with voter fraud, Florida prosecutors said on Thursday.
Bannon became the focus of an investigation by the Public Corruption Unit of the State Attorney’s Office in Miami last summer following a report in the Guardian that the residence he cited on his voter registration was vacant. That report appeared as Bannon became the chief executive of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
From 2014 to 2016, Bannon claimed three times on voter forms to live in Florida. At the time, Bannon maintained a California driver’s license, owned property and businesses in that state and spent much of his time outside of Florida, prosecutors found.
“This investigation revealed evidence that tends to indicate that the Subject did not intend to or actually reside in Miami-Dade County,” Assistant State Attorney Devon Helfmeyer wrote in a seven-page memo closing out the investigation.
The prosecutors also said their decision not to file criminal charges was based on the state’s fuzzy legal definition of “reside.” They said there was “reasonable doubt” that Bannon willfully gave false information about his residency to election officials.
“To ‘reside’ at a location is a nebulous concept that depends on a person’s actions and their subjective state of mind. The Florida case law . . . is both sparse and antique,” the memo said.
Bannon did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The questions over Bannon’s residency status in Florida highlight the unusual, peripatetic lifestyle he led in the years before he went to the White House as Trump’s senior adviser.
A recent Washington Post examination found that Bannon paid the rent for two houses in Miami that were occupied by his third ex-wife. Neighbors at both homes in Miami said they never saw him over the three years he reported living there. At the time, he was serving as executive chairman of Breitbart News and was hosting a regular radio program from studios in Washington and New York.
The Florida investigation focused on whether Bannon had violated two state laws that prohibit providing false information on voter-registration documents. A violation of either law is a third-degree felony.
Investigators said they interviewed multiple people and examined leases, business records, utility bills and other documents.
Prosecutors said that Bannon “was afforded the opportunity to speak with the State Attorney’s Office” but declined through his attorneys.
“The public record is replete with accounts of the Subject’s business and political engagements outside Florida during the dates in question,” prosecutors wrote.
The landlord at the home where Bannon claimed to live from 2013 to 2015 told investigators that although Bannon paid the rent, the landlord dealt exclusively with his former wife and saw no sign that he lived there.
One of the people prosecutors interviewed was Arlene Delgado, who worked for the Trump campaign. She told them that she met with Bannon three times at the home he leased on Opechee Drive in Miami.
Bannon referred to it as “my house,” she said. Delgado also told investigators that she remembered seeing boxes and papers at the home that indicated Bannon was living there. She said the meeting was part of Bannon’s effort to recruit her to work for Breitbart. Delgado did not immediately respond to calls and an email from The Post.
Diane Clohesy, Bannon’s ex-wife, told investigators that Bannon stayed with her at the two Miami homes. But she offered few details, prosecutors said.
“Ms. Clohesy stated that she did not remember what their arrangement was, or whether the two of them had discussed whether these houses were intended to be the Subject’s primary home. Beyond that, Ms. Clohesy stated that she did not feel comfortable or prepared to answer any questions,” prosecutors said in the memo.
Neighbors previously told The Post that someone other than Bannon appeared to be living in the Opechee Drive home with Clohesy.
In October 2013, at the time that Bannon said he was living with Clohesy, she became ensnared in an undercover investigation of a jail guard suspected of smuggling drugs and other contraband to another man, a friend of hers in the Miami-Dade County Pre-trial Detention Center.
Over several months in 2014 and 2015, police also responded to multiple reports about disturbances, including loud music, at the homes Bannon leased with Clohesy. The owner of the first home told The Post that the home was left with extensive damage: missing or padlocked doors and a bathtub destroyed by what appeared to be acid.
The prosecutors wrote in the memo that they faced a high bar for filing criminal charges.
“Especially in our increasingly mobile society, a person may spend the majority of his or her nights at one (or multiple) locations, but legally reside at another under Florida law,” they wrote.
“Before bringing charges, ethically, a prosecutor must have sufficient evidence to prove a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Lacking proof beyond a reasonable doubt, the prosecutor must decline to pursue charges.”