Whoa: @AdamSchiffCA says that Dems on the House Intel Committee wanted to bring Maria Butina and Paul Erickson in for questioning — but were told not to by House Republicans, who were worried about “tarnishing” the NRA and President Trump.
— Alex Wagner (@alexwagner) July 19, 2018
… by any means necessary!
She gave the Repubs what they were looking for: Attention from a ‘hot chick’ who publicly admired their massive weaponry, political astuteness, and general VIRTUE. In the heat of the moment, it didn’t seem important to ask what she might be looking for in return…
NEW: How did alleged Russian agent Maria Butina make inroads with conservative groups for so many years?
She learned how to speak their language – guns, freedom, God, America.
— Vera Bergengruen (@VeraMBergen) July 19, 2018
It’s hard to tell how much of the story 29-year-old Russian graduate student Maria Butina told Americans about herself for years is real.
What is clear is that in Butina, the Russian government either found or created an irresistible persona for US conservatives. The story she repeated over years of speeches and interviews — of a scrappy girl from Siberia fighting for gun rights in Russia — was carefully calibrated to show a passion for self-defense, a yearning for America’s easy access to guns, and a hint of criticism of Russia’s own laws…
People who spoke to BuzzFeed News about their interactions with her, as well as a review of her interviews, writings, and extensive social media posts, paint a picture of someone who knew how to push all the right conservative buttons.
Hers was a startlingly effective performance.
By the time she appeared on the popular radio show of evangelical author Eric Metaxas, who later endorsed Trump and served on his evangelical advisory council, her life story — or at least what she said was her life story — rolled off her tongue with practiced ease.
“My story is simple — my father is a hunter, I was born in Siberia,” she explained in the July 2015 interview, echoing previous talking points in which she often drew parallels to parts of the US, like South Dakota, where guns are “necessary for survival” to defend lives and property.
“That seems appropriate, somehow,” Metaxas interrupted, sounding delighted, when she described founding her gun rights organization in a “Moscow version of a McDonald’s,” telling her friends “we need to fight for our gun rights.”
“Wow, I just love the idea of this,” he said. “To think…because you know, those of us in America can be very parochial, we forget that the fight for liberty goes on for all around the globe in different guises.”
Butina also seemed to know exactly what a conservative evangelical audience would want to hear, earnestly speaking about the growing number of churches in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the “great history of Christian religion” that she had in common with US evangelicals, her audience.
“When we talk about Russian and American relationships, the main point is Christianity, in both countries,” she told Metaxas…
Butina adapted her message to her audience and current events. As early as 2012, Guns.com ran a piece on her organization calling for more relaxed Russian gun laws after the Sandy Hook shooting. In her conversations with older men, she reportedly often joked about her hunting skills and mentioned she had modeled in photo shoots to promote gun rights, including a glamorous spread in Russian GQ. In an interview with Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich for Townhall.com, she expressed admiration for the NRA’s youth programs.
“Who is the average Russian gun owner and a member of The Right to Bear Arms today? A middle-class man with a family and a business — someone who has something to lose and to protect,” she told a group of University of South Dakota students in April 2015, before ending with a Bible verse, according to an outline of her presentation posted on social media.
In a video posted by the organizers of FreedomFest, a libertarian political event held in Las Vegas in July 2015, she suggested, with a slight grimace, that she wished to bring the US concept of freedom back home…
After Butina asked Trump that question about Russia at the town hall, his advisers reportedly watched the video and wondered how that had happened and where she had come from. Trump adviser Steve Bannon told Reince Priebus, who would eventually become Trump’s White House chief of staff, that it was odd that Trump had a fully developed answer to her question.
“Priebus agreed that there was something strange about Butina,” Isikoff and Corn reported in their book. “Whenever there were events held by conservative groups, she was always around, he told Bannon.”…
‘Course, some guys are gonna claim they were only in it for another form of ‘manliness enhancement’ — namely C.R.E.A.M…
NEWS: Rep. ROHRABACHER tells me he could be the lawmaker referenced in the Butina indicment.
Also, he says indictment is "stupid" and that it's the "deep state" trying to poison the U.S.-Russia relationship.https://t.co/CfU7pHoKWC
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) July 17, 2018
Investigating if suspected Russian spy acquired any compromising material against NRA execs, FBI crime lab unlocks seized phone, checks text messages… pic.twitter.com/G6z4NtwwUd
— zeddy (@Zeddary) July 19, 2018