Today, with all of the attention on Trump’s abject behavior in Helsinki, it was easy to overlook the charges filed against Maria Butina.
I have previously commented here and here about the possible financial arrangement between the NRA and Russia. Today, with the criminal complaint and the affidavit in support thereof filed against Butina, it appears that more details will, in due course, come to light. And, the affidavit makes it clear that effort to influence the NRA was merely a way station on the path to co-opt the Republican Party.
Paragraph 7 of the supporting affidavit states that:
U.S. Person 1 is a United States citizen and an American political operative. BUTINA established contact with U.S. Person 1 in Moscow in or around 2013. U.S. Person 1 worked with BUTINA to jointly arrange introductions to U.S. persons having influence in American politics, including an organization promoting gun rights (hereinafter “GUN RIGHTS ORGANIZATION”), for the purpose of advancing the agenda of the Russian Federation.
In paragraph 18 of the affidavit, we find that Betina emailed U.S. Person 1 with the subject line “the Second Pozner,” Pozner likely referring to “Vladimir Pozner, a propagandist who served in the disinformation department of the Soviet KGB and who often appeared on Western television to explain the views of the Soviet Union during the Cold War.” That paragraph relates that:
The [GUN RIGHTS ORGANIZATION] [is] the largest sponsor of the elections to the US congress, as well as a sponsor of The CPAC conference and other events.
Paragraph 31 of the affidavit relates an email that U.S. Person 1 sent to an acquaintance in which U.S. Person 1 stated that:
Unrelated to specific presidential campaigns, I’ve been involved in securing a VERY private line of communication between the Kremlin and key POLITICAL PARTY 1 leaders through, of all conduits, the [GUN RIGHTS ORGANIZATION].
In paragraph 33 of the affidavit, in an e-mail to her Russian superior, Betina stated:
We are currently ‘underground’ both here and there. Now, private clubs and quite [sic] influence on people making decisions is the trend. No publicity.
Most chillingly is this Twitter exchange between Betina and her Russian superior reported in paragraph 32 of the affidavit:
BUTINA: Oh well. I am just starting in this field. I still have to learn and learn from you! These are not just words! Harsh and impetuous moves will ruin everything early.
RUSSIAN OFFICIAL: This is hard to teach. Patience and cold blood +faith in yourself. And everything will definitely turn out.
Of course, influencing the GUN RIGHTS ORGANIZATION was not Russia’s ultimate goal. Rather, it was merely a conduit to obtain a “VERY private line of communication between the Kremlin and key POLITICAL PARTY 1 leaders.” And, the affidavit describes “Political Party 1” as being “a major U.S. political party . . . that . . . is ‘traditionally associated with negative and aggressive foreign policy, particularly with regards to Russia'” and, in which, the GUN RIGHTS ORGANIZATION has “a [c]entral place and influence.” (Paragraph 18 of the affidavit.)
Let’s be clear, Russia has, financially, co-opted the NRA with an intent to co-opt the GOP. It remains to be seen the extent to which it succeeded.