Nov 18, 2022 - Politics & Policy

GOP operative convicted in scheme to funnel Russian money into Trump campaign

Photo of Jesse Benton speaking

Jesse Benton, spokesperson 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 (R-Ky.) was convicted Thursday after being found guilty of helping to funnel illegal foreign campaign contributions from a Russian national into former President Trump's 2016 campaign.

Driving the news: Jessie Benton, 45, orchestrated a scheme to conceal the illegal foreign donation with another GOP operative, per the Justice Department. Benton, the husband of Paul's niece and a veteran Republican staffer, faces up to 20 years in prison. His attorney told the Washington Post Benton "maintains his innocence and plans to appeal."

  • Federal prosecutors say Benton arranged for the Russian national to attend a political fundraising event for Trump's campaign and take a photo with Trump.

For the record: Neither Trump nor his campaign was aware of the Russian person's nationality, the DOJ said.

Zoom in: The Russian national wired $100,000 to Benton's political consulting firm to make an illegal foreign contribution, but Benton allegedly pocketed $75,000 and gave $25,000 to the campaign, falsely identifying himself as the donor.

  • He faced six criminal charges, including conspiracy and abetting illegal foreign political contributions.

Flashback: Benton was previously convicted of filing false statements as part of 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.

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