"I feel victimized a whole lot," said an emotional Paul, under cross-examination by Kesari's attorney. "The real victimization here is happening to me and my family. It's been a heavy burden. I didn't even know it was legal to make someone testify against a family member!"
Prosecutors have alleged that Benton and Kesari developed a scheme to pay an Iowa state legislator for a primary season endorsement.
Earlier in the day, federal prosecutors had sought to establish Paul's campaigns as family affairs -- tight-knit but occasionally shambolic. Benton, who worked for Paul's 2008 presidential campaign, eventually met and married the candidate's granddaughter, Valori Pyeatt. Her mother, Lori Pyeatt, was the treasurer for most of her father's campaigns. Benton and Kesari were on trial, not them, but both women watched Ron Paul's testimony from the front of the witness stands, Lori Pyeatt having just testified about how hidden payments to an Iowa state senator, which eventually totaled more than $8,000 a month, appeared in FEC reports.
Paul, who appeared as the government's witness, appeared to take a benignly neglectful approach to campaign nitty-gritty. Asked how well he knew Kent Sorenson, the disgraced state senator whom Benton and Kesari are accused of paying for his endorsement, Paul said they "probably crossed paths," then recounted how he was actually irritated when Sorenson showed up at a pre-Iowa caucus press conference.
"I was annoyed, because I was thrown off balance," Paul said. "Here I was, ready to give a speech, and I was told three minutes beforehand that a state senator was there to endorse me."
According to Paul, he learned in his 1996 upset victory for a seat in Congress that endorsements didn't matter. "I assumed it went without saying that I didn't want that," Paul said. "It was never implied -- hey, get out there, guys, get more more endorsements."
That left Paul explaining that Benton was effectively his "right-hand man," who traveled with him wherever he went, but had never told him of a scheme to pay Sorenson to bolt the fading campaign of then-congresswoman Michele Bachmann. The government did not try to prove otherwise. Prosecutors had to show him his own grand jury testimony, twice, to get Paul to confirm that Kesari -- whose e-mails revealed a six-month deal to pay Sorenson through a pass-through company -- had effectively been an assistant to Benton.
"I'm not positive of the title," said Paul. "There were a lot of people working for the campaign... everyone reported to [campaign manager] John Tate and Jesse."
Paul saved his ire for the prosecution itself. He recounted angrily how he'd "read in the paper" that he was about to testify against his family. He fully supported Benton, he said, and hated to see his daughter put on a witness stand.
"As far as I'm concerned, nothing has changed," said Paul. "I feel like my daughter has been victimized, when she's getting treatment for cancer and she has to come up here."
Paul also reiterated his initial reaction to the indictment, angrily recounting that it was discussed as a possibility for months but only was released the day before the first 2016 Republican presidential debate, "where my son Rand had been invited," forcing him to answer awkward questions.
"I consider that more than a coincidence," Paul said. "I consider it an injustice."
By coincidence, however, Ron Paul took the stand just an hour away and a few miles from a Drake University campaign stop by his son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) The elder Paul was much less interested in the spotlight. Approached by reporters before taking the stand, he glumly insisted that he had "no news." When he left the stand, he refused to say anything to a small group of pursuing reporters.
"Just keep walking straight," Paul told his daughter, as they marched to a nearby hotel and shut the door.