Are there still people attempting to push the notion that there has been no attempt by Russia to infiltrate and interfere in an American election, or are we at full “So what?” mode with those guys?
Just kidding. I know the record never changes in that camp.
That being said, Thursday yielded more weight to the charges of Russian meddling when 30 year old Maria Butina pleaded guilty in a federal court on charges of conspiracy to act as an illegal foreign agent in the United States.
Butina, for those who may have forgotten about her, had presented herself as a young grad student, attending American University, in Washington, D.C., as well as a Russian gun rights activist.
She is the founder of Right to Bear Arms, a Russian gun rights group.
Meanwhile, however, reports suggest she was using that as a ruse, in order to gain access to American politics.
In particular, she sought to infiltrate the Republican party by becoming a fixture with groups like the National Rifle Association – an outfit heavily supported by the GOP.
Butina said she acted “under direction of” a Russian official whom CNN has identified as Alexander Torshin. “Butina sought to establish unofficial lines of communication with Americans having power and influence over US politics,” the prosecutor said in court.
Torshin served as Butina’s patron in her American adventures.
He, himself, is a former Russian senator, who now serves as a deputy governor of Russia’s Central Bank.
Butina, who initially clung to her innocence, said that her gun activism is what should have been the cause of her incarceration – in Russia, not the United States.
A story from the Associated Press back in September noted that neither Butina nor Torshin seemed particularly concerned that their gun rights activities would get them in trouble. They were both very open about their gun right beliefs, even on social media, where it would catch the most attention.
And they suffered no punishment for championing gun rights, even though many in Russia’s leadership see the idea as subversive.
“She was saying, ‘I always thought if I was going to be in jail, I’d be in jail in Russia for advocating for gun rights, and now I’m in jail in America for advocating better U.S.-Russian relations. There’s something kind of screwed up about that,’” said Robert Driscoll, Butina’s U.S. attorney.
Guns are tightly restricted in Russia, a country where extremist threats loom and organized crime and corruption fester. Civilians can own only hunting rifles and smoothbore firearms and must undergo significant background checks for those. Firearms advertising is illegal, and polls show most Russians are wary of looser gun laws.
You would think her pro-gun activities would raise some red flags with her government, but that apparently didn’t happen.
According to the FBI, the evidence they have against her suggests that both she and Torshin have connections to Russian intelligence.
Now, for those who are wondering, Butina’s case is not directly tied to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Her Thursday guilty plea could result in five years in prison, and deportation, once she is freed.
On Wednesday, the Russian government suggested that Butina’s rights had been violated, and that she was being tortured in an American prison.
This isn’t the case, of course, but the Russian government is all about creating false narratives.
And to re-up one of my mantras from the RS days:
Russia is not our friend!
Let’s just hope that once the Butina case concludes, along with Robert Mueller’s final report, more people wake up to that fact.