|Russian spy and NRA affiliate, Maria Butina.|
On the same day that Donald Trump was throwing America under the bus and serving as Vladimir Putin's bitch boy, Maria Butina, 29, a Russian national affiliated with the National Rifle Association ("NRA"), was indicted for meeting with U.S. politicians and candidates to establish ‘back channels’ and secretly reporting to Kremlin. Stated more directly, she was indicted for being a Russian spy. Unlike the other Russians indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller, Butina was physically taken into custody and will face active prosecution. This comes atop stories that the $30 million thrown into the 2016 presidential election to back Trump by the NRA may well have been monies sourced from Russian nationals. One can only hope that Butina spills her guts to strike a plea deal and helps expose the NRA's nefarious activities. A piece in The Guardian looks at her arrest. Here are highlights:
A Russian woman has been charged with spying for Moscow in the US by infiltrating the National Rifle Association (NRA) in an attempt to influence the Republican party and American politics.Maria Butina, who purported to be a pro-gun activist, met American politicians and candidates to establish “back channels” and secretly reported back to the Kremlin through a high-level Russian official, according to the US justice department.
Prosecutors said in a statement that Butina, 29, had been “developing relationships with US persons and infiltrating organisations having influence in American politics, for the purpose of advancing the interests of the Russian federation”.
Butina was charged with conspiracy to act as a Russian agent within the US without notifying the attorney general. She was arrested on Sunday and appeared before a magistrate in Washington on Monday, officials said. In an affidavit, an FBI agent said investigators had searched Butina’s laptop computer and mobile phone.
The NRA did not respond to requests for comment.
Butina has come under increasing scrutiny amid the investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. Footage emerged of her asking Trump a question in front of an audience at a conservative event in July 2015.
She is known as a protege of Alexander Torshin, a senior official at the Russian central bank, who is also a longtime associate of the NRA. Torshin, who met Donald Trump Jr at an NRA event in 2016, was placed under sanction by the US in April.
Charging documents unsealed on Monday say Butina was directed by a “high-level official in the Russian government”. The unnamed official’s biography matched that of Torshin, but he was not identified by name.
Two unidentified Americans, one of them described as a “political operative”, were said in the charging documents to have assisted Butina in her efforts to make political contacts in the US. Neither was charged with a crime.
Butina has a longstanding working relationship with Paul Erickson, an NRA member and conservative operative based in South Dakota. Erickson did not respond to a voicemail left on Monday afternoon.
Prosecutors said Butina emailed the first American associate in March 2015, suggesting a specific political party “would likely obtain control over the US government after the 2016 elections” and noting the powerful role in this party played by a certain gun rights organisation.
According to prosecutors, she reported that a Kremlin official had given approval for the back channel she was building, and she told the American: “All we needed is ‘yes’ from Putin’s side. The rest is easier.”
Officials said the investigation into Butina was conducted by the FBI’s Washington office and was being prosecuted by the national security sections of the US attorney’s office in Washington and justice department headquarters. The office of Robert Mueller, the special counsel, played no immediately apparent role.
Little surprise that the NRA and Erickson failed to respond to inquiries. The irony, of course, is that it is quickly turning out that those who have been the loudest about their supposed patriotism are the ones supporting treason. Sadly, I doubt the news of the last couple of days will sink in with some "friends" who continue to post what is little better than Russian/Trump propaganda on Facebook. I sincerely hope that before all of this is over, the Republican Party will become synonymous with treason and traitors.