GOP Operative Jesse Benton's Conviction Upheld for Funneling Illegal Russian Donation to Trump's 2016 Campaign

GOP operative Jesse Benton's conviction for funneling $25K Russian donation to Trump's 2016 campaign upheld, highlighting concerns about foreign influence in US elections.

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Bijay Laxmi
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GOP Operative Jesse Benton's Conviction Upheld for Funneling Illegal Russian Donation to Trump's 2016 Campaign

GOP Operative Jesse Benton's Conviction Upheld for Funneling Illegal Russian Donation to Trump's 2016 Campaign

A federal appeals court has upheld the conviction of GOP political operative Jesse Benton for funneling an illegal $25,000 Russian donation to former President Trump's 2016 campaign and concealing the source from the Federal Election Commission (FEC). The District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Benton's appeal, affirming his conviction from late 2022.

Benton, a veteran political operative, was convicted for helping to orchestrate the illegal donation from a Russian national, Roman Vasilenko, to the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee (RNC). Benton's consulting firm received $100,000 from Vasilenko, and Benton created a fake invoice to make it appear the money was for consulting fees. He then used $25,000 of the funds to contribute to the Trump campaign, listing himself as the contributor to conceal the actual source when filing with the FEC.

The court rejected Benton's arguments that a previous pardon from Trump in an unrelated case should have prohibited the jury from hearing about his previous election crimes, and that he should have been charged under campaign finance laws instead of falsifying records statutes. Benton has a history of election-related crimes, having been previously convicted in 2016 for paying an Iowa state senator to support Ron Paul in the 2012 presidential election.

Why this matters: The case highlights ongoing concerns about foreign influence in U.S. elections and the role of political operatives in facilitating illegal campaign contributions. It also emphasizes the significance of transparency and accountability in campaign finance reporting.

Benton arranged for Vasilenko to meet with Trump at a fundraiser without revealing Vasilenko's nationality. "The evidence showed that Benton knowingly and willfully caused the filing of a false report with the FEC," the appeals court stated in its ruling. The court's decision sends a strong message about the consequences of violating federal election laws and attempting to conceal foreign donations to political campaigns.

Key Takeaways

  • Federal appeals court upheld conviction of GOP operative Jesse Benton.
  • Benton funneled $25K illegal Russian donation to Trump's 2016 campaign.
  • Benton used fake invoice to conceal source of donation from FEC.
  • Court rejected Benton's arguments, including a previous Trump pardon.
  • Case highlights concerns about foreign influence in US elections.