Republican operatives who are veterans in the campaign are being charged in a new federal indictment that funneled $25,000 from a Russian national into the Trump campaign in 2016. One of the operatives got a pardon from then-President Donald Trump one month before he left office.
Republican Operatives Plead Not Guilty in a Video Hearing
Making brief appearances on Monday, Jesse Benton, 43, and Doug Wead, 75, during a video hearing. It was in the U.S. District Court in Washington. Both pleaded not guilty to six felony charges which included facilitating a campaign contribution by a foreign national. They acted as a straw donor and caused the filing of false campaign finance reports.
Benton and Wead Working with a Unidentified Russian National
Benton and Wead worked together to accept $100,000 from an unidentified Russian national, the grand jury indictment alleges. This was to get the foreigner a meeting with then-candidate Trump at a fundraiser in Philadelphia on September 22, 2016.
Scheme to Seek Donation in Connection with Trump Event
Trump nor his campaign are actually mentioned by name in the indictment. However, the details in the 19-page document do make it apparently clear the scheme did involve seeking the donation in connection with the Trump event. Plus the opportunity to get a face to face with him.
On October 27, 2016, the indictment does a reference $25,000 donation to a political committee by Benton was to allegedly cover up the foreign source of the money. In fact, it does measure up with a donation of the same size and date to Trump’s political committee. That does attribute to a “Jesse Bentor,” which prosecutors do say is a garbling of Benton’s name.
Originating with the Russian donor, there is no indication in the indictment that Donald Trump or his campaign aides were aware of that money. Moreover, the charges do say that Benton and Wead “cover” the arrangement from Trump. In fact, that was part of the scheme involving getting the political committees to “unwittingly” thus file reports that showed that Benton was really the source of the funds.