DOJ Indicts Two GOP Operatives For Funneling Cash From Russian National To RNC For Meeting With Trump

Via press release from the Justice Department:

An indictment was unsealed today in the District of Columbia charging a Kentucky man and a Florida man both with conspiracy to solicit and cause an illegal campaign contribution by a foreign national, effect a conduit contribution and cause false records to be filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and related substantive offenses.

According to court documents, Jesse R. Benton, 43, of Louisville, Kentucky, who previously worked as a campaign manager for two campaigns for U.S. Senate and one campaign for president, and Roy Douglas “Doug” Wead, 75, of Bonita Springs, Florida, who previously served as an advisor to multiple presidential campaigns, conspired together to solicit a political contribution from a Russian foreign national (Foreign National 1).

As described in the indictment, Wead conveyed to Foreign National 1 that he could meet Political Candidate 1, a candidate for president during the 2016 election cycle, in exchange for a payment. Shortly after Foreign National 1 committed to transfer the funds, Benton reached out to individuals at Political Committee B, the national party committee for Political Candidate 1’s political party.

He then arranged for Foreign National 1 to attend a political fundraising event and get a photograph with Political Candidate 1, in exchange for a political contribution to Political Committee C, a joint fundraising committee comprised of the campaign committee for Political Candidate 1, Political Committee B, and related state committees.

Foreign National 1 ultimately wired $100,000 to Company A, a political consulting firm owned by Benton. To disguise the true purpose of the transfer of funds, Wead and Benton created a fake invoice for “consulting services” and invented a cover story.

Benton and Wead are both charged with one count of conspiracy to solicit and cause an illegal campaign contribution by a foreign national, effect a conduit contribution, and cause false records to be filed with the FEC, one count of contribution by a foreign national, one count of contribution in the name of another and three counts of making false entries in an official record.

The defendants made their initial court appearance today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. If convicted, Benton and Wead face a range of maximum penalties from five to 20 years in prison, per count.