Sep 20, 2021 - Politics & Policy

GOP operatives accused of funneling Russian cash to Trump

Veteran Republican operative Jesse Benton in the spin room of a 2012 presidential debate.

Jesse Benton, spokesman for the Ron Paul campaign, speaking to reporters on Jan. 1, 2012. Photo: Robert Daemmrich Photography Inc/Corbis via Getty Images

A former senior aide to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul was indicted this month for allegedly funneling $25,000 from a wealthy, unnamed Russian to former President Trump's reelection efforts.

The big picture: The Justice Department alleges that Jesse Benton, 43, the husband of Paul's niece and a veteran Republican staffer, orchestrated a scheme to conceal the illegal foreign donation with another GOP operative, Doug Wead.

The details: The indictment, unsealed on Monday, outlines allegations of a convoluted money trail from the unnamed Russian national through a consulting firm run by Benton and to a Trump joint fundraising committee.

  • The Russian national was determined to underwrite a Trump fundraising event in order to get a photo with the former president, according to communications between Benton and Wead cited in the indictment.
  • The indictment alleges that Benton received $100,000 from the Russian national and passed on $25,000 to the joint fundraising committee, allegedly pocketing the remaining $75,000.
  • Wead and Benton each face six criminal charges, including conspiracy and abetting illegal foreign political contributions.

For the record: Efforts to reach Wead were not immediately successful. Benton did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

  • Benton was previously convicted of filing false statements in connection with a scheme to funnel money from Ron Paul's 2012 presidential campaign to an influential Iowa politician who backed Paul in the state's presidential caucus.
  • Trump pardoned Benton in December, shortly before leaving office.
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