Prosecutors said Benton and Wead funneled $25,000 from the unnamed Russian donor to the Trump Victory Committee, a joint fundraising venture between then-candidate Donald Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee. The Russian then attended a September 2016 fundraiser in Philadelphia, where he met Trump and took photos with the future President.
According to the indictment, the Russian wired $100,000 to a company that Benton owned. Benton kept $75,000 and donated the remaining $25,000 to the Trump Victory Committee. The indictment doesn’t name Trump or the committee. However, the details in the court filings match Trump’s travel schedule, and Federal Election Commission records confirm Benton’s donation.
The two defendants have worked in politics for decades and are well-known in GOP circles.
Wead was an aide to former President George H.W. Bush, served with Benton on Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign and worked on Rand Paul’s Senate reelection campaign in 2016.
The Justice Department has cracked down in recent years on foreign influence in American politics by bringing cases about straw donations, undisclosed lobbying and election meddling.