Former GOP Senate Aide Charged With Funneling Russian Funds To Trump Campaign

 A former GOP Senate aide was convicted Thursday for his role in “funneling” foreign donations from a Russian national to a presidential campaign in 2016, according to a Department of Justice press release.

Jessie Benton, 45, of The Woodlands, Texas, faces up to 20 years in prison for conspiring to solicit an illegal campaign contribution, editing a conduit contribution and causing false records to be filed with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC), according to the release. Benton cooperated with a Russian foreign national Roman Vasilenko to orchestrate a meet-and-greet with former president, then presidential candidate, Donald Trump, and received a $100,000 campaign contribution in return.

Benton later contributed $25,000 of the donation to the campaign, falsely attributing himself as the donor, and pocketed the remaining $75,000, according to the release. Benton hid the identity and nationality of the contributor from Trump’s campaign while setting up the event, where the Russian national received a picture with Trump.

Vasilenko was a Russian naval officer who later became a multilevel marketer, according to The Washington Post. Vasilenko is currently under investigation in Russia for allegedly running a pyramid scheme.

Benton “maintains his innocence and plans to appeal,” his attorney told The Washington Post.

In 2012, Benton was convicted of funneling money from Ron Paul’s presidential campaign after he filed false statements regarding money transfers to an Iowa politician, according to Axios. Benton previously worked as an aide for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Republican Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.

Trump pardoned Benton for his 2012 conviction while in office, according to Axios.

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