At the conclusion of the Mueller investigation probing Russian influence on the 2016 election and the Trump campaign's knowledge of it, former President Donald Trump and his allies falsely claimed Mueller's findings were a "complete and total exoneration" of then-President Trump.
In reality, the Mueller report detailed multiple contacts between the Trump campaign and people with ties to the Russian government. Special Counsel Robert Mueller testified that Trump, when out of office, could reasonably be charged with a crime for his obstruction efforts impeding the investigation.
That hasn't stopped Trump and his ilk from referring to the investigation as the "Russia Hoax," but now yet another disturbing link between the Trump campaign and Russia has been uncovered.
The Justice Department has indicted Jesse Benton, a former aide to Republican Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul of Kentucky, for funneling $25 thousand to Trump's 2020 reelection campaign from an unnamed Russian national. Benton plotted the scheme with conservative commentator Doug Wead.
According to the Justice Department's filing:
"The defendants solicited contributions from the Russian foreign national and concealed the scheme from the candidate, federal regulators, and the public by secretly funneling foreign money from the Russian foreign national through BENTON, who acted as a straw donor ... by purporting to make a campaign contribution in his own name, rather than in the name of the Russian foreign national, who was the true source of the funds."
In 2018, a federal appeals court upheld Benton's conviction for lying to authorities about funneling money to Ron Paul's 2012 campaign from a prominent Iowa politician. Trump pardoned Benton in the final weeks of his administration.
Once again, the Republican party's entanglements with Russia are raising red flags.
People weren't exactly surprised.
It's unclear what Benton's and Wead's defenses will be.