September 21, 2021

Republicans, Russia and Donald Trump are three peas in a pod. In totally unexpected indictments, two Republican operatives -- Jesse Benton, who has strong personal and professional connections to Rand Paul, and Roy Douglas Wead -- were indicted for charges related to "funneling" money to the Trump 2016 campaign. Jesse Benton was actually pardoned by Donald Trump right before he left office for convictions on OTHER campaign crimes! I guess the guy just didn't learn.

Business Insider reports that Jesse Benton, who was once Mitch McConnell's campaign manager and a former staffer for Rand Paul, "conspired to illegally funnel thousands of dollars of foreign money from a Russian foreign national" into the 2016 Trump Presidential campaign. The indictment specifically points to a $100,000 wire transfer that Benton received in October 2016 from an "unnamed Russian national" which related to a promise of the national "meet[ing][/ing] a celebrity" at a fundraiser in Philadelphia in September 2016. Benton is also married to Rand Paul's niece and has long-standing ties to Ron Paul, too.

Although prosecutors did not directly name the candidate, it has been confirmed that Donald Trump was hosting a fundraiser at the Ritz-Carlton on the night referenced in Philadelphia in September 2016. It also has been confirmed that the Russian national DID attend the fundraiser. His travel was coordinated by the other person indicted, Roy Douglas Wead, a conservative author. All 3 men had photos taken with the candidate.

So what does the indictment allege, outside of this sketchy payout scheme? The men are accused of "falsely portraying the contribution as payment for consulting work." Benton allegedly kept $75,000 of the $100,000 for himself - a real chutzpahdik. He did donate the remaining $25,000 to the campaign in his own name. Under federal campaign finance laws, donors may not use proxies for their donations, especially foreign donors who are not permitted to make campaign contributions. Apparently Benton thought if he kept 3/4ths of the donations and laundered the other $25,000, he would somehow get around campaign finance laws.

Around that exact same time, Benton was "convicted of campaign finance fraud over his role in the 2012 Ron Paul presidential campaign" and was sentenced to two years probation and given a hefty $10,000 fine. As a reminder, Donald Trump pardoned him for the crime - campaign finance fraud.

Ironically, the current indictment is significantly more serious, with a possible prison sentence of 5 to 20 years if convicted on all six counts. Whoops.


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