Prosecutors said Benton and Weed funneled $25,000 from an undisclosed 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 with Trump and took photos with the future president.
According to the indictment, the Russian wired $100,000 to a company owned by Benton. Benton kept $75,000 and donated the remaining $25,000 to the Trump Victory Committee. Trump or the committee is not named in the indictment. However, details in court filings match Trump’s itinerary, and Federal Election Commission records confirm Benton’s donation.
The two defendants have been working in politics for decades and are well-known in GOP circles.
Wade was an aide to former President George HW Bush, worked with Benton in Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign and worked on Rand Paul’s Senate reelection campaign in 2016.
The Justice Department has cracked down on foreign influence in American politics in recent years by bringing in cases of straw donation, undeclared lobbying and electoral interference.