Federal prosecutors have obtained a conviction of a longtime GOP strategist who illegally helped a Russian businessman funnel money to Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.
“Jesse Benton, 44, was pardoned by Trump in 2020 for a different campaign finance crime, months before he was indicted again on six counts related to facilitating an illegal foreign campaign donation. He was found guilty Thursday on all six counts,” The Washington Post reported. “The evidence at trial showed Benton bought a $25,000 ticket to a September 2016 Republican National Committee (RNC) event on behalf of Roman Vasilenko, a Russian naval officer turned multilevel marketer.”
Vasilenko received a photo with Trump at the time, while he was running for parliament in Russia.
“Benton began his career on the GOP’s libertarian fringe as an aide to former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), whose granddaughter is Benton’s wife. He gained mainstream credibility helping Paul’s son, Rand Paul (R-KY), win a Senate seat in 2010 and was hired by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s 2014 reelection campaign,” The Post reported. “But Benton resigned before that election amid an investigation into whether an Iowa state senator was bribed to support Ron Paul in the 2012 presidential race.”
Sen. Paul helped achieve a pardon for Benton two days before Christmas in 2020, when Trump was a lame duck after losing to Joe Biden, The Post reported at the time.
At the same time, Trump pardoned GOP operatives Paul Manafort and Roger Stone along with Charles Kushner, the father of Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner.