U.S. prosecutors unsealed criminal charges Monday against two longtime Republican Party operatives, accusing them of illegally funneling a foreign campaign contribution to former President Donald Trump in 2016.
According to an indictment unsealed in federal court in the District of Columbia, Jesse Benton and Doug Wead "conspired to illegally funnel thousands of dollars of foreign money from a Russian foreign national into an election for the Office of President of the United States of America."
Wead, 75, worked as a senior adviser on multiple presidential campaigns and ran for Congress as a Republican in 1992.
"I am putting everything I have into this fight," Wead told Newsmax in a statement Monday night, referring further comment to his attorneys Jay Sekulow and Jane Raskin.
Sekulow and Raskin were prominent members of Trump's defense team during the second impeachment trial earlier this year.
"Doug Wead is a respected author and supporter of charitable causes," Sekulow told Newsmax in a statement Monday night. "He has pleaded not guilty to the charges and will continue to respond appropriately in court."
According to the indictment, Benton and Wead helped a Russian national get a ticket to a fundraiser with Trump in Pennsylvania in September 2016.
The Russian, who was not identified in the indictment, donated $25,000 to political action committees associated with Trump in order to attend the event, according to prosecutors. U.S. law bans foreign nationals from donating money to presidential campaigns.
But the true source of the donation was concealed from the Trump campaign, the indictment said, because the payment was secretly funneled through Benton, who acted as a "straw donor."
Benton, 43, previously managed campaigns for Republican Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul of Kentucky before he was convicted for his role in a political endorsement scheme. Benton avoided jail time and received a presidential pardon in December 2020 from Trump.
Newsmax writer Eric Mack contributed to this Reuters report.
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