A Russian operative used political consultant Jessie R. Benton of Texas as a conduit for illegal donations to the Donald Trump 2016 campaign.
It is illegal for a U.S. campaign to take money from a foreign national. Benton made it possible for the Russian to attend a political fundraiser for Trump. In order to walk through the door at the event, each individual was supposed to contribute.
In an attempt to hide the $100,000 transaction, Benton created a false invoice to disguise the money as a consulting fee. Then, the political advisor donated $25,000 from the foreign national to the soon-to-be president’s campaign. Benton kept the remaining $75,000.
The campaign filed its donations with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) attributing the donation to Benton instead of the Russian.
The DOJ charged and convicted the political consultant:
‘[O]f 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 FEC.’
Benton is facing a possible 20-year sentence, and his sentencing is set for February 17, 2023. The federal district court judge will be the one to decide what kind of sentence the consultant will earn. The judge uses the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors before making the final decision:
‘Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman for the Southern District of California, U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves for the District of Columbia, and Special Agent in Charge Stacey Moy of the FBI San Diego Field Office made the announcement.’
The FBI out of the San Diego field office was charged with investigating the incident. The prosecutors were, as The Axios reported:
‘Trial Attorneys Rebecca G. Ross and Michelle K. Parikh of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle L. Wasserman for the Southern District of California, while serving in her capacity as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.’
The Russian operative chose well. Benton had already been convicted of a similar crime in 2012. Then, he schemed to “funnel money from Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign [to] an influential Iowa politician.” It was a payoff for backing the senator during Iowa’s presidential caucus.
Trump pardoned Benton shortly before leaving office.
Featured image is Russian photograph via YouTube.
Christie writes Gloria Christie Reports & Three White Lions Substack newsletters and a Three White Lions podcast available on Apple, Spotify, etc. She is a political journalist for the liberal online newspaper The Bipartisan Report. Written in her own unique style with a twist of humor. Christie’s Mueller Report Adventures In Bite-Sizes a real-life compelling spy mystery (in progress). Find her here on Facebook. Or at Three White Lions her book on Amazon Kindle Vella and the Gloria Christie Three White Lions podcast on Apple, Spotify, etc.