GOP operative convicted in scheme to funnel Russian money into Trump campaign
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.
- Trump pardoned Benton shortly before leaving office.
Go deeper: Pro-Trump PAC fined over foreign money offer