GOP operative jailed in conspiracy to provide Trump campaign access to Russian funds
According to the Department of Justice, a Republican strategist was given an 18-month prison term on Friday for his part in assisting a Russian person make unlawful foreign campaign donations to former President Trump’s 2016 campaign.
The main story: Jessie Benton, a former top assistant to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, planned a strategy to hide the unlawful foreign donation with another GOP political advisor.
Benton, 45, was convicted in November of conspiring to solicit and cause an illegal campaign contribution by a foreign national, effecting a conduit contribution, and causing false records to be filed with the Federal Election Commission, per the DOJ.
Background: Benton arranged for the Russian national to attend a political campaign fundraising event and take a photo with Trump, federal prosecutors said.
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.
The campaign unknowingly filed reports with the FEC that inaccurately reported Benton as the source of the funds instead of the Russian national, per the Justice Department.
Of note: Neither Trump nor his campaign was aware of the Russian person’s nationality, the DOJ said.
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, Axios’ Shawna Chen reports.