Let’s combine some international intrigue with a very popular parlor game.
- Maria Butina is a Russian spy (allegedly, but hell, we know she is).
- Maria Butina found the best way to practice her spycraft was to infiltrate the NRA.
- Maria Butina routed Russian money to the NRA
- The NRA routes money to the Republican Party, therefore …
- Russia owns the Republican Party.
See. I only needed five degrees.
So am I exaggerating?
Butina has been charged with two counts: conspiracy, and acting as an agent of a foreign government without informing the attorney general. On Wednesday, she pleaded not guilty to both.
Now, this is not part of the Mueller investigation. The FBI’s Washington Field Office investigated Butina, and she’s being prosecuted by the DC US Attorney’s Office. For whatever reason, this probe was not put under Mueller’s purview.
But the exact nature, and breadth, of what is being investigated related to Butina remains vague — making it unclear exactly how much legal jeopardy the NRA or the Trump camp is now in.
If the NRA really was bamboozled by a Russian spy, the group could be a victim in all this. Yet there are a series of McClatchy reports, dating back to January, asserting the FBI is investigating the NRA’s finances — and specifically whether Torshin “illegally funneled money” to the group “to help Donald Trump win the presidency.”
The NRA is not legally obligated to publicly reveal its donors, and does not do so. It spent tens of millions of dollars on the 2016 elections to try to get Trump elected. An aide to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), who’s been investigating the matter, told McClatchy that the NRA had dodged his questions about whether it accepted money from shell companies that could have been routed from Russians. (Butina and Erickson set up a shell company, Bridge LLC, together.)
As for Trump’s associates — the government filings about Butina are conspicuously light on references to her outreach to Trump’s team, even though this outreach has been widely reported in the media.
However, in May, a Spanish organized crime prosecutor said that his government had given wiretaps of some of Alexander Torshin’s conversations to the FBI “just a few months ago.” He added, “Mr. Trump’s son should be concerned.”
For now, though, only Butina has been charged. A DC judge ordered Wednesday that she be jailed without bond until her trial.
Let’s carry this a little further.
- Russia sponsors terrorism against the United States
- The NRA demands unlimited access to guns in the United States.
- The NRA is a Russian-sponsored terrorist group that pays off the Republican Party to destroy America.
See! Only needed three degrees there.