Russian agent Maria Butina reported to her Russian handler that she’d “laid the groundwork for an unofficial channel of communication with the next U.S. administration” during the Trump campaign

[Republican operative Paul Erickson and his Russian spy lover Maria Butina in happier times… According to prosecutors, Butina “privately expressed ‘disdain’ for him“.]

Back in July of 2015, not long after officially launching his presidential campaign, Donald Trump attended a conservative event in Las Vegas called “Freedom Fest.” It was at this event that Trump, in response to a question posed by a young woman in the audience, went on the record for the first time, saying that, if elected, he’d roll-back the sanctions against Russia imposed during the Obama administration. The woman in the audience who asked that question identified herself at the time as a Russian student. We know now, however, that she was, in fact, a Russian spy. Her name is Maria Butina, and news broke this morning that she’s decided to start working with federal prosecutors about her campaign to infiltrate and direct the activities of conservative organizations, like the NRA. [Butina has been in custody since this past July.]

You can find the entire “Freedom Fest” exchange between Butina and Trump on Youtube, but here’s the gist of it.

And, now, it would seem, Butina is ready to start talking about everyone, from Republican operative Paul Erickson, with whom she was having a romantic relationship, no doubt to further political objectives in the United States, to her Russian handler, Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of the Russian Central Bank, and a close associate of Vladimir Putin. It was under Torshin’s guidance, according to documents acquired by ABC News, that Butina, “sought to establish unofficial lines of communication with Americans having power and influence over U.S. politics.” [Torshin is the founder of The Right to Bear Arms, a Russian pro-gun group.]

Erickson, it’s worth noting, sent an e-mail in May 2016 under the subject line “Kremlin Connection” to Trump campaign adviser Rick Dearborn. In that note, he asked Dearborn and then-Senator Jeff Sessions for help setting up a meeting between Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin at an annual NRA convention.

Here’s a excerpt from the ABC News report:

…(A)ccording to the agreement, Butina has acknowledged that with U.S. Person 1’s assistance, she drafted a proposal called “Description of the Diplomacy Project” in March of 2015 which was later sent to the Russian Official, in which she said that she had already “laid the groundwork for an unofficial channel of communication with the next U.S. administration” and requested $125,000 from a Russian billionaire to attend conferences and meetings to further develop those ties. The Russian Official, the agreement said, confirmed that her proposal would be at least partially supported.

The government has alleged that U.S. Person 1 “worked with Butina to arrange introductions to U.S. persons having influence in American politics,” including high-ranking members of the National Rifle Association and organizers of the National Prayer Breakfast, that would ultimately give her a surprising level of access to conservative politicians, including — in one memorable interaction captured on video — to then-candidate Donald Trump…

It would appear that, even as Erickson was helping Butina forge those connections, he may have been aware of the political implications.

“Unrelated to specific presidential campaigns,” Erickson wrote in an October 2016 email to an acquaintance that was later obtained by the FBI, “I’ve been involved in securing a VERY private line of communication between the Kremlin and key [unnamed political party] leaders through, of all conduits, the [unnamed gun-rights organization].”

And during an FBI raid of Erickson’s South Dakota home, investigators discovered a handwritten note suggesting Erickson may have been aware of a possible job offer from Russian intelligence services: “How to respond to FSB offer of employment?” Erickson scratched, an apparent reference to the Russian equivalent of the CIA…

What’s this? Butina claimed to have “laid the groundwork for an unofficial channel of communication with the next U.S. administration”? Erickson was contemplating an official offer to become a Russian agent? There just doesn’t seen to be any bottom to this, does there? Oh, and all of this is coming out just days after the revelation that Michael Cohen had outlined yet another Russian connection for prosecutors, bringing the total number of Trump associates to interact with Russian agents during the campaign to 14.

I’d like to go on, but I have a headache. Can one of you please finish this up for me?

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  1. Frosted Flakes
    Posted December 10, 2018 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

    Where is the evidence that she was a spy? Just because she’s working with Russian intelligence to change the Republican Party’s platform on Russian-American relations doesn’t make her a spy. None of this proves anything, if Trump was guilty Mueller would have arrested him by now.

  2. Jean Henry
    Posted December 10, 2018 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    She confessed, FF.

    P you don’t know enough (none of us d00 to assess whether or not Mueller has anything solid on Trump. It’s not over. He’s prosecuting the investigation like a mob sting, and those take many years to rope in the big guy. I will say that paying off am ex-lover, while a campaign violation, is not enough in my mind for successful or legitimate impeachment. If that was all he had, Trump would have been indicted. It appears there may be more, or Muelly is hoping for more. Which is good. At any rate, multi-year investigations into crime rings or political corruption are not unusual. This one is just getting more public attention.

  3. wobblie
    Posted December 11, 2018 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    FF, ” Just because she’s working with Russian intelligence to change the Republican Party’s platform on Russian-American relations doesn’t make her a spy.” What makes her a “spy” is working for a foreign state actor in another country, without telling that other country she is there working in the interest of another state actor. Much like what Flynn did, ie. why it is the law that you register as an agent for a foreign power. The question then becomes, did she engage in other illegal activities while being a spy (ie. espionage). Not all “spy’s” are “secret agents”. Many work in our country legally and engage in legal intelligence gathering, cultural attaches, military attaches, businessmen, reporters etc.

    The willful ignorance of folks on the right just has no limits.

  4. verifyfirst
    Posted December 11, 2018 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    1). The DOJ’s (U.S. Department of Justice, which houses the Mueller probe) current position is that a sitting President cannot be indicted, is that correct? Thus impeachment becomes the only remedy?

    2). There seems to be a difference between being an “agent” of a foreign country, and being a “spy” for a foreign country. Agents have to register but are free to try to influence whatever they want as long as they do it legally (so not paying bribes or such); actual spies would be unlikely to register with the country they are trying to spy on… that correct?

  5. Jean Henry
    Posted December 11, 2018 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    verify first– The DOJ would need to indict on federal crimes, but Trump can be indicted on State crimes while in office. The DOJ argument against indicting a sitting president is contested but it’s also never been tested. Either way, as soon as Trump leaves office, he would be indicted.

    If the Mueller report is released in advance of 2020 (likely), then it will impact whether or not Trump is re-elected and how soon he is indicted. I’m not holding my breath for impeachment unless there is explicit evidence of Trump colluding with the Russians re either the election or policy. The stronger the case, the harder it will be for Trump to spin it to his base as him being persecuted. It;s going to be an interesting election season.

    I’d prefer, at this point, that Trump hold on through 2020 and lose than see a President Pence. Although without Kelly around and with the Mueller investigation tightening it’s noose, maybe he’ll become too volatile and dangerous.

    Then again, HW thinks that the HRC will be indicted and taken down and that Trump will impose martial law. Just like an episode of Homeland.

  6. John Brown
    Posted December 11, 2018 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    The fact that she was welcome with open arms into the NRA and National Holy Roller Breakfast crowds shows who the core of the domestic enemies of The Constitution are. Get ready to defend against the American Taliban my fellow libtards. This, unfortunately, is also what democracy looks like, under attack.

  7. Anonymous
    Posted December 11, 2018 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    Erickson was the national treasurer of the College Republicans in Washington, D.C.. Other staff members at that time included Grover Norquist, Ralph Reed, and Jack Abramoff.

  8. Frosted Flakes
    Posted December 11, 2018 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    I have not commented on this issue.

    The post above, using my handle, was not written by me.

  9. M
    Posted December 11, 2018 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    The NRA spent unprecedented amounts of money to help Trump get elected in 2016. One wonders how much of that money came from Russia, just passing through the NRA’s hands.

  10. Anonymous
    Posted December 11, 2018 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    Here Butina is with Rick Santorum, one of the candidates to be Donald Trump’s next Chief of Staff.

  11. Lynne
    Posted December 11, 2018 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    FWIW, I don’t think the House should even consider impeachment unless they have enough support in the Senate to remove him from office

  12. Putin on Butina
    Posted December 11, 2018 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    Putin on Butina: “She’s facing 15 years in prison. For what? When I heard that something was happening to her […] I started by asking all our secret service chiefs: who is she? Nobody knew anything about her!”

  13. Natasha Bertrand from the Atlantic
    Posted December 11, 2018 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    Is that why the Russian government has conducted 6 consular visits to Butina, passed 4 diplomatic notes to State about her case, and had Lavrov personally speak to Pompeo twice about her prosecution? (The official Kremlin Twitter account changed its avatar to a picture of her, too.)

  14. John Brown
    Posted December 11, 2018 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Lynne (if that’s really who you are),

    I disagree. If the House doesn’t impeach for “high crimes and misdemeanors then the Constitution and rule of law is meaningless. We cannot concede this defining trait of our democracy to these rogue villians. Let the Senate explain their failure to convict and then campaign the hell outta that in 2020. They’ll be backed into a no win situation. Of course apriori they’ll say they won’t support it, but push comes to shove, we’ll see.

  15. Jeannie Leverich
    Posted December 11, 2018 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    This is straight out of the plot of “The Americans.”

  16. Leighton by proxy
    Posted December 11, 2018 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    [Looks at photo.] So, she’s a Flipper?

  17. John Brown
    Posted December 11, 2018 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    Good one Leighton. I just hope that’s not a US Navy dolphin – given her supposed MO of sex for access.

  18. Anonymous
    Posted December 15, 2018 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    Do you really think she made a plea bargain without approval from Russia? It could mean that Trump is not as useful to Putin anymore.

  19. Jean Henry
    Posted December 15, 2018 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    Anonymous– Not all plea bargains are built the same, as we have learned. But you may also be right, because the gains Russian’s thought they’d get from Trump’s support have not materialized. Sanctions have not been lifted and have been tightened especially around oil. The arctic has not been handed over to Russia for drilling and there is more competition from the US and others. And we have not stayed entirely out of the Middle East allowing them to take over control there. They have gone on with their expansionism, but they were likely to do that anyway. Trump is ineffectual, volatile and disruptive, as well as stupid; What Russia wants is a strong man who is effective and both in control and controllable.

  20. iRobert
    Posted December 17, 2018 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    I thought the prostitutes in Moscow pissing on each other was the thing that really grabbed Trunp’s attention, and opened up those “communication channels.”

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