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GOP Strategist Pardoned by Trump Now Convicted of Illegally Funneling Him Russian Cash: Report

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Federal prosecutors have obtained a conviction of a longtime GOP strategist who illegally helped a Russian businessman funnel money to Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.

“Jesse Benton, 44, was pardoned by Trump in 2020 for a different campaign finance crime, months before he was indicted again on six counts related to facilitating an illegal foreign campaign donation. He was found guilty Thursday on all six counts,” The Washington Post reported. “The evidence at trial showed Benton bought a $25,000 ticket to a September 2016 Republican National Committee (RNC) event on behalf of Roman Vasilenko, a Russian naval officer turned multilevel marketer.”

Vasilenko received a photo with Trump at the time, while he was running for parliament in Russia.

IN OTHER NEWS: Fox host trashes House Republicans for ‘wasting time’ with ‘boring’ Biden investigation

“Benton began his career on the GOP’s libertarian fringe as an aide to former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), whose granddaughter is Benton’s wife. He gained mainstream credibility helping Paul’s son, Rand Paul (R-KY), win a Senate seat in 2010 and was hired by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s 2014 reelection campaign,” The Post reported. “But Benton resigned before that election amid an investigation into whether an Iowa state senator was bribed to support Ron Paul in the 2012 presidential race.”

Sen. Paul helped achieve a pardon for Benton two days before Christmas in 2020, when Trump was a lame duck after losing to Joe Biden, The Post reported at the time.

At the same time, Trump pardoned GOP operatives Paul Manafort and Roger Stone along with Charles Kushner, the father of Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Image by Gage Skidmore via Flickr and a CC license

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‘Low Energy Donald’: Trump Buried for ‘Monotonous’ Kick-Off Speeches in Critical Battleground States

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Donald Trump’s first two speeches touting his 2024 Republican Party presidential bid before smaller crowds in New Hampshire and South Carolina ended up being a rehash of old complaints and with a few lines that garnered applause but his demeanor was lacking the usual fire once seen at his raucous rallies.

On the morning after the speeches, MSNBC host Katie Phang shared clips of the president speaking and noted the lack of enthusiam from the former president when one considers how important the first foray into public in 2023 was to his third presidential bid with Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) and a bevy of GOP lawmakers nipping at his heels.

As the MSNBC host pointed out, the president’s uncharacteristically short speeches were nothing less than monotonous.

“Do you guys remember low-energy Jeb?” Phang began, referencing former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, “That was the moniker Donald Trump branded on the former Florida Governor, Jeb Bush while they compete with others for the Republican nomination in 2016.”

“Well, now it seems like we have a low-energy Donald,” she continued. “Here was Donald Trump yesterday when he tried to kick his third white house run into high gear.”

RELATED: ‘All washed up’: Republican insider says Trump needs to ‘move on’ because ‘he’s bleeding support’

After showing a clip of the subdued former president telling the crowd, “So, we’re here. We start, we begin. I want to thank New Hampshire for the warm welcome outside. We are so far ahead in the polls, both in New Hampshire — one came out this morning, very nice poll — we are way ahead. We had a tremendous period of time. We had a tremendous thing happening just two and a half years ago,” Phang noted Trump’s demeanor.

“King of the monotone,” she pointed out, “Despite trump saying he is leading in the polls the reality is so far he is the only Republican who has even announced a run for president.”

“Trump’s first lethargic campaign stops of the 24 race come as sources are telling NBC News that [Rep.] Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) is angling to be his vice president,” she added. “The MAGA conspiracy theorist slash insurrectionist, slash election denier, reportedly sees herself as someone who can bridge the divide between the party’s far-right hard-liners and its, quote, establishment wing.”

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Watch: Nancy Pelosi Says ‘I Have Absolutely No Intention of Seeing the Deadly Assault on My Husband’s Life’

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U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) the former Speaker of the House, told reporters she has no intention of watching just-released video of the almost fatal, brutal attack on her 82-year old husband, allegedly by a hammer-wielding, far-right conspiracy theory promoting extremist.

DePape had “posted antisemitic screeds and entries defending former President Donald Trump and Ye, the rapper formally known as Kayne West who recently made antisemitic comments,” CBS News reported one day after the attack.

Earlier Friday, before the video had been released by a judge’s order, Rep. Pelosi said did not know if she would watch the video.

Later, Friday afternoon, Pelosi said she would not.

READ MORE: Pelosi Attack Video Release Leads to Criticism of Musk, Right Wingers Who ‘Trafficked in Homophobic Conspiracy Nonsense’

“As you know, today there was a release of some information. I have not heard the 911 call. I have not heard the confession. I have not seen the break-in, and I have absolutely no intention of seeing the deadly assault on my husband’s life.”

Prosecutors have described the attack as “near-fatal.”

She also thanked “people for all of their prayers,” and for “asking about the progress my husband is making, and he is making progress, but it will take more time.”

Apparently choking up, she added that she would not be making any more statements about this case as it proceeds, except again to thank people and inform them of Paul’s progress.”

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Another Santos Financial Concern: GOP Lawmaker Claims Campaign Paid WinRed Triple the Fees It Should Have

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According to an NBC News report there’s yet another mystery swirling around U.S. Rep. George Santos and his campaign financial activity and reports.

WinRed, the right-wing fundraising processor platform created to compete with Democrats’ ActBlue, has asked the Santos campaign to correct a financial report that claims the New York GOP lawmaker paid them more than triple what it should have – suggesting the entry on his Federal Election Commission (FEC) report is erroneous.

“Santos reported paying WinRed more than $206,000 to process donations to his 2022 campaign, records show. But that amount doesn’t match up with how much money Santos actually raised,” NBC News reports.

“WinRed charges candidates a 3.94% fee for contributions made online by credit card. At that rate, Santos would have had to have raised more than $5.2 million through WinRed to warrant a $206,000 payment to the firm,” NBC explains. “Through November, however, his campaign reported total contributions of $1.7 million, including donations that didn’t come through WinRed.”

READ MORE: ‘Deliberately Deceived the Nation’: Legal Experts Stunned by ‘Jaw-Dropping’ Report on How Barr and Durham Protected Trump

WinRed would not tell NBC News how much the Santos campaign actually paid them, with the news network offering that it could be “sloppy accounting.”

But one campaign finance expert, attorney Brett Kappel, warns, “nothing that appears on Rep. Santos’s FEC reports can be taken at face value.”

This follows reports that the Santos campaign amended two filings to indicate that a $500,000 personal loan and a $125,000 personal loan, claimed to have been from the candidate’s own personal funds, was not from his personal funds. There is no information indicating what entity loaned the Santos campaign the money, or if it actually even existed.

That bombshell was followed up this week with yet another one: the FEC reports were allegedly signed by a “treasurer” who does not and never has worked for the Santos campaign. One expert called that a “big no-no,” and “completely illegal.”

READ MORE: Watch: Santos Responds to Report He Joked About Hitler, ‘The Jews’ and Black People

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