Breaking News: Maria Butina Has Reached a Plea Agreement with Federal Prosecutors

Ms. Butina has agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy and cooperate with Federal, state, and local investigations. ABC News has the details (emphasis mine):

Maria Butina, a 30-year-old Russian gun rights activist who stands accused developing a covert influence operation in the United States, has agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy and cooperate with federal, state and local authorities in any ongoing investigations.

She admits, as part of the deal, according to a copy obtained by ABC News that is expected to be filed to the court, that she and an unnamed “U.S. Person 1,” which sources have identified as longtime Republican operative Paul Erickson, with whom she had a multiyear romantic relationship, “agreed and conspired, with a Russian government official (“Russian Official”) and at least one other person, for Butina to act in the United States under the direction of Russian Official without prior notification to the Attorney General.”

Based on the description, the “Russian Official” appears to be Alexander Torshin, deputy governor of the Russian Central Bank and a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Under his direction, the agreement said, she “sought to establish unofficial lines of communication with Americans having power and influence over U.S. politics.”

The agreement, which Butina signed on Saturday, Dec. 8, also notes that the conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison, but the deal could see Butina receive a lesser sentence, depending on the level of her cooperation, before likely being deported back to Russia.

It is unclear what Butina’s cooperation might entail, but federal prosecutors have reportedly notified Erickson that he is a target of an ongoing investigation. The target letter sent to Erickson is from federal prosecutors in Washington, sources familiar with the case told ABC News, and separate from any South Dakota-based federal fraud investigation into his business dealings that has been the subject of earlier media reports.

But now, according 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.

Most notably, Butina’s Russian gun rights group “Right to Bear Arms” hosted a delegation of former NRA presidents, board members and major donors in Moscow in 2015, where she appears to have succeeded in arranging a meeting between NRA insiders and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, raising the prospect of a discussion between conservative political operatives and a powerful member of Russian President Putin’s inner circle in the midst of a presidential campaign.

After that now infamous meeting, the agreement said, Butina sent the Russian Official a message, which was translated as saying “We should let them express their gratitude now, we will put pressure on them quietly later.”

Much more at the link!

While we’ve covered Ms. Butina’s endeavors here before, one of the most interesting items in ABC’s report is that the plea deal was reached this past Saturday. There are also some non-surprises here. That US Individual is Paul Erickson who, apparently, is not very bright! And given the attempts to run a petroleum sale using funding partial raised by former NRA President David Keene’s wife, as well as her ability to get access to Governor Scott Walker, former Senator Rick Santorum, Donald Trump Jr, former sheriff and flair aficionado David Clarke, and a number of other high level Republican elected and appointed officials, as well as conservative activists, there could be multiple Federal, state, and local targets of this investigation.

And, of course, that the Russian official is Alexander Torshin and oligarch and leader within Russian organized crime circles who is close to Putin. Depending on how this proceeds, keep an eye out to see if Torshin suffers an accidental death that will clearly be anything but accidental.

What we don’t know right now is exactly what Butina is going to provide to the Federal prosecutors, as well as state and local investigators. Some of it will likely deal with Russian attempts to penetrate the NRA, the National Prayer Breakfast, and related groups and organizations in an attempt to influence the Republican Party, Republican elected officials, and the outcome of the 2016 election.

Just to be thorough, I did a quick search of the top firearms/guns/2nd Amendment sites and there’s no mention of this at all.

Always make sure to identify your target and know what’s beyond it!

Open thread!

141 replies
  1. 1
    dmsilev says:

    How to respond to an FSB offer of employment

    Start by looking them up on Glassdoor to see if salary, benefits, and working environment are competitive with other options?

    (the working environment is killer. So to speak.)

  2. 2
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @dmsilev: Lots of OSHA violations regarding accidental death and dismemberment claims.

  3. 3
    MP says:

    @Adam L Silverman: On the bright side AD&D usually pays out at two times the rate of regular life insurance!

  4. 4
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    Depending on how this proceeds, keep an eye out to see if Torshin suffers an accidental death that will clearly be anything but accidental.

    Or if Maria Butina slips in the prison shower and lands on a shiv 72 times.

    how effective is witness protection?

  5. 5
    Ken says:

    I’m leaning toward the “Putin authorized this to maximize damage to the US” theory, suggested in the comments earlier today.

  6. 6
    Lapassionara says:

    Is it wrong of me to think of Boris and Natasha while reading this?

  7. 7
    dmsilev says:

    @Lapassionara: Does that make Robert Mueller moose or squirrel?

  8. 8
    mapaghimagsik says:

    But Boris, what about Moose and Squirrel?

  9. 9
    Corner Stone says:

    Depending on how this proceeds, keep an eye out to see if Torshin suffers an accidental death that will clearly be anything but accidental.

    Maddow on MSNBC already reporting Torshin has mysteriously “retired” and not been seen for some time. That could need to be better sourced in the near future.

  10. 10
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @Ken: occurred to me, too. trump and the Rs don’t seem to grasp that helping trump, and them, was a means, not an end, and the end goal was to destabilize the US

    ETA: @Lapassionara: I’m thinking of Keri Russell in a bad wig reporting to her new job as a prison guard

  11. 11
    Adam L Silverman says:

    And today’s winner for most interesting headline goes to…

  12. 12
    jl says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist: They are wrapping this up so fast, either its panic on Butina’s part and she is going for the best deal she can get, or the Russians gamed out what to do when the Looney Tunes NRA $ scheme inevitably blew up and went public. So, I figure, either Butina and her pals are doing whatever they can to minimize risk of falls from high windows, or they will get medals and fat pensions for following the script. At this point, only they know.

    Of course, not sure whether or when Putin will go full Trump and he just starts defenestrating flunkies who piss him off or irritate him because he forgot about, or is bored today with yesterday’s plans. That is a problem with thugs.

  13. 13
  14. 14
    🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)  🗳🌷 says:

    I always suspected there was something hinky about the National Prayer Breakfast. Will US presidents and other officials still attend now? They shouldn’t.

    Just to be thorough, I did a quick search of the top firearms/guns/2nd Amendment sites and there’s no mention of this at all.

    Par for the course.

  15. 15
    different-church-lady says:

    Wait… Open thread? Seriously? Open thread? You can’t drop a bunch of stuff about red-headed Russian Spies and the NRA and plea deals and political assassinations all over the place and then just mutter, “Open thread.”

  16. 16
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @MP: In Russia insurance lifes you! Or something.

  17. 17
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Lapassionara: Yes, that is insulting to Boris and Natasha. They actually had decent tradecraft!

  18. 18
    Lapassionara says:

    @dmsilev: Ho, ho, tavarich, no trick questions for me.

  19. 19
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @different-church-lady: Open thread!

  20. 20
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    twitter tells me Sean Hannity is doing a big story on Uranium One tonight

  21. 21
    Karen says:

    Wasn’t she part of the NRA ‘s plan to funnel money from Torshin to Trump’s campaign? If I have the facts wrong please let me know.

  22. 22
    PeakVT says:

    Maria Butina, a 30-year-old Russian gun rights activist

    Kinda tired of this formulation.

    Should be “a 30-year-old Russian posing as a firearms industry booster.”

    Our media is cowardly.

  23. 23

    As others have hinted, THIS is the kind of thing that gets you assassinated by Putin.

  24. 24
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Karen: That seems to be the case.

  25. 25
    different-church-lady says:

    @Adam L Silverman: …plea bargains you!

  26. 26
    🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)  🗳🌷 says:

    I’d say they just like to give people the benefit of the doubt who don’t deserve it for some odd reason.

  27. 27
    different-church-lady says:

    @Adam L Silverman: OK, fine: last night, once again, I eschewed the comfort of my bed, preferring instead to sleep on the floor of my office in a sleeping bag.

    Could someone please explain what the heck is going on with me?

  28. 28
    rikyrah says:

    Dear Kay,

    I hope that you see this.
    Grifters, ALL😡😡

    Jennifer Hayden (@Scout_Finch) Tweeted:
    Nick Ayers, Mike Pence’s 36-year-old Chief of Staff who just turned down the job as Trump’s Chief of Staff, somehow managed to amass a $54 million fortune as a ‘consultant’ for Republicans. Serious questions need to be asked about how this is possible.

  29. 29
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Frankensteinbeck: Balloon Juice blog posts are listed as a leading cause of death in Russia…//

  30. 30
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @different-church-lady: Your home office or your office office?

    Also, your mother, tell us about your mother.

  31. 31
    different-church-lady says:

    @Adam L Silverman: In Russian Balloon Juice, mustard lose you!

  32. 32
    Lapassionara says:

    @rikyrah: $54million? What a travesty!

  33. 33
    different-church-lady says:

    @Adam L Silverman: My home office.

    Mother was dead: to begin with…

  34. 34
    catclub says:

    so what is the pool boy Jerry Falwell Jr story?

  35. 35
    rikyrah says:

    Spy Girl has flipped?!?!

    Time to say RICO, Boys and Girls😏😏😏


  36. 36
    different-church-lady says:

    @catclub: He’s just a pool boy, from a pool family…

  37. 37
    rikyrah says:

    Look at what you wrote…

    Pool Boy….😄😄😄

    Whatever the story, it smells like blackmail….
    Uh huh
    Uh huh 😒😒

  38. 38
    dmsilev says:

    @rikyrah: Look, we should be in favor of grifters ripping off GOP donors and keeping as much of the cash for themselves as possible.

  39. 39

    That scrap of paper makes me think of an extremely memorable scene in Twin Peaks, where Cooper tries to figure out what Laura meant when she diary’d “Nervous about meeting J tonight.”

  40. 40
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    How far down the FSB rabbit hole does all this go?

    How many GOP pols are in jeopardy? The vile Turtle apparently accepted millions in campaign contributions from a Russian oligarch.

    The entire party is a nest of traitors. Burn it to the ground.

  41. 41
    Jeffro says:


    so what is the pool boy Jerry Falwell Jr story?

    Jesus, even on the way down/being found out/totally imploding the RWNJs and their wackiness and criminality are going to overwhelm us just by sheer volume of insane shit, aren’t they?

    Lemme guess, JF Jr was either into the pool boy, or brought him along for Mrs. JF Jr’s entertainment? ICKickICKickICK!

  42. 42
    jl says:

    Thing that is odd to me is that the Butina racket was so wild and public, with conferences and websites, and very open Russian channels. It’s almost like Putin didn’t care about secrecy or covering their tracks for this part of the operation. Maybe Putin’s skunk works figured there would be rumbles about real $big$ business going on behind the scenes between Russia and Trump. So, what the hell, a lot of chumps (that they’d need to use and lose if they needed to inject money quick) will want to get close to the action. So, why not make it public? Why not make it fun? Send an operative over there and give the wannabe Trumpsters a real thrill ride, get them so goggly eyed with pretty Russian operatives, and big expenses paid gun meetings in Russia, important business stuff, dangle $ in front of them, and they’ll do anything. Like send themselves to long federal prison terms for money laundering.

    The more the NRA chumps could advertise semi-publicly that they were with the Trump-Russia train too, almost like they real players in the new game, they might be more likely to do really stupid things. That wouldn’t make a plausible drama, though maybe a good farce. But, turns out there are a lot of really stupid people out there who went for it.

  43. 43
    Platonailedit says:

    Trump has reportedly expressed concern that he could be impeached when Democrats take over the House. A source said Trump apparently sees impeachment as a "real possibility."— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) December 11, 2018

    ya think, you treasonous asshole?

  44. 44
    Schlemazel says:

    Its a story as old as time
    True as it can be
    Barely even friends
    Then somebody bends

    With any luck it will be the end of that particular grifter reaching the end of his road. It is too much to ask that it kills their BS ‘university’ but a guy can hope

  45. 45
    Jeffro says:

    @rikyrah: R-I-C (yeah you know me)

    Rico, oh Rico, because of Rico



  46. 46
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @PeakVT: Our media is pathetic, too.

    My nym. Again and again.

    Wipe them out. All of them.

  47. 47
    jl says:

    @Platonailedit: Might prompt Trump to finally reach out for advice from a former president. Not sure Bill will be in a mood to help, though.

  48. 48
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @PeakVT: Personal ownership of firearms is so common in FSU countries that she had to come here to spread her gospel.

  49. 49
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @rikyrah: He did this because he was the campaign communications strategist for a number of GOP gubernatorial and congressional campaigns. In that role he arranged the advertising buys. The company that he coordinated those advertising buys through just happened to be a company he owns. So he gets paid directly by the campaign and then he charges a percentage to the campaign for the advertising buys as they pass through his company. This is essentially legalized skimming and it can result in really big bucks. His desire to go home and do the same work for a pro-Trump reelection SuperPAC puts him right back in the position of being able to siphon off millions as the pass through for the advertising buys from the SuperPAC. Basically he’s going to go back to Georgia, work from home, and legally skim millions as a result. This is simply about greed. He’ll go into the 2020 campaign with a net worth of $54 million and he’ll likely double that by the time the campaign is over by doing this kind of work.

  50. 50
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @different-church-lady: The frightening thing is this will likely happen to Cole one day.

  51. 51
    rikyrah says:

    Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) Tweeted:
    Two more newly elected sheriffs in North Carolina have announced an end to their counties’ agreements with ICE.

    Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker and Durham County Sheriff Clarence F. Birkhead announced their respective policy changes.

  52. 52


    Not sure Bill will be in a mood to help, though.

    I’d never help…Oh THAT Bill. Nevermind.

  53. 53
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @different-church-lady: I have no idea why or what it means. Perhaps you need a new mattress?

  54. 54
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Mammon worshipers. The lot of them.

  55. 55
    BroD says:

    Oh, c’mon, people! Who among us has not, at one time or another. scribbled, “How to respond to an FSB offer of employment?” on a post-it note in the wee hours?

  56. 56
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Those Subarus don’t get stuck in fields by themselves, you know.

  57. 57
    Platonailedit says:

    Why does a russian sista need to advocate gun rights to real murkans? Isn’t like to preaching to a fucking crazy choir?

  58. 58
  59. 59
    Mary G says:

    I just finished “A Very Expensive Poison” by Luke Harding, which describes the agonizing death of Alexander Litvinenko 22 days after drinking tea laced with a form of polonium, and it scared the crap out of me. Putin is one sick puppy and we need to get everyone who took his money out of American life.

  60. 60
    Jeffro says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: I tossed that at my RWNJ dad a few months ago – I think “idolaters of wealth” is what I used – and it really threw him. And why not? The truth hurts.

  61. 61
    Platonailedit says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Nice line of work, if you can grift it.

  62. 62
    Keith P. says:

    The fatal flaw in the GOP’s elites are starting to come through, as Orrin Hatch is on TV saying he doesn’t care if Trump committed crimes (felonies!), which naturally leads to a clip of Orrin Hatch trying to justify impeaching Clinton for lying. They can’t bring out Rand Paul or Joni Ernst for that line of horseshit? Oh, wait, competitive re-elections.

  63. 63
    A Ghost To Most says:


    the working environment is killer. So to speak.

    Not so much the working conditions as the retirement plan.

  64. 64
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    Manu Raju @ mkraju
    Thirty-two Dems, 10 Republicans and two independents tell their former colleagues in extraordinary letter: “It has been the Senate that has stood in defense of our democracy. Today is once again such a time.”

    Dear Senate colleagues,
    As former members of the U.S. Senate, Democrats and Republicans, it is our shared view that we are entering a dangerous period, and we feel an obligation to speak up about serious challenges to the rule of law, the Constitution, our governing institutions and our national security.

    I was surprised to see Al D’Amato among the signatories, both because I’m surprised Al is still with us, and I would’ve figured a living Al would be leeching off some pro-trump scam. Also, Ben Nighthorse Campbell, I would’ve figured him for a MAGAt, too. William (edited) Cohen is on there, and Olympia Snowe is not. Hard to imagine Cohen didn’t send her an email.

  65. 65
    jl says:

    @Adam L Silverman: So, Trump is too out-of-it to think this through, and decided on this guy, who seems to be a sharper and better businessperson than Trump. And is Pence too dense to think it through and try to talk Trump out of it. Or did Pence come in and make the ask, then roll his eyes, knowing what will happen, as Ayers starts laughing, throwing stuff into moving boxes and makes airline reservations?

    Knowing this guy’s job history and financial position, along with possibility he is far enough removed from the crimes, the very idea that this guy would take the job is laughable. He can easily get even richer off of Trump’s flailing downfall, or off the next GOP Trump, from a very safe distance.

  66. 66

    @catclub: I kind of hope it’s exactly what it looks like.

  67. 67
    A Ghost To Most says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: Greedy assholes is more to the point, and religion free.

  68. 68
    Gin & Tonic says:

    What continues to amaze is how ~40 years after the second Committee on the Present Danger (Jeane Kirkpatrick, Richard Perle, et al) the Republican Party in the US has become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Russia. I’m having a hard time coming up with any comparable reversal in 20th (&21st) Century political life.

  69. 69
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @A Ghost To Most: The actuaries love the retirement plan, though.

  70. 70
    Ruckus says:

    Whatever else he is Vlad does not seem to be stupid. Look what this is doing to the country. Look what it is doing to our worldwide reputation. Look what it’s doing to millions of people. Look how divided we are as a nation. Look at at least half our political class. Look at our elections. Look at our local governments.
    Does this seem like something that just happened over night? Does this seem like something that’s been planned and in operation for some time to make our society far worse than it was?
    The republicans started this divide and conquer routine decades ago and haven’t made it a secret at all, Vlad just stepped in and helped pay for it, to speed it up. And it’s worked. But Vlad isn’t going to be made to pay for any of this, maybe some of his assistants will but do you think he gives a shit? I’d bet he’s accomplished what he set out to do, cause chaos and just about completely dismember our political system.

  71. 71
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @rikyrah: Sauve!

  72. 72
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: Len Blavatnik was one of McConnell’s sources of funds.

  73. 73
    🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)  🗳🌷 says:

    @Gin & Tonic:

    I’m having a hard time coming up with any comparable reversal in 20th (&21st) Century political life.

    The French far-right preceding WW2 and the German-puppet, French State? The French and the Germans hated each other throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries.

  74. 74
    Doug Gardner says:

    @Adam L Silverman: “Dismemberment” may be literal, when they shoot their dic* off.

  75. 75
    rikyrah says:

    Rick Wilson (@TheRickWilson) Tweeted:
    Don’t cry for me, says Butina
    The truth is, I never left you
    All through my wild days, my spy existence
    The deal I’ve cut now
    Helps the Resistance

  76. 76
    Bobby Thomson says:


    Lemme guess, JF Jr was either into the pool boy, or brought him along for Mrs. JF Jr’s entertainment?

    I think he was into the pool boy, IYKWIMAITYD.

  77. 77
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: My third or fourth cousin who invented the laser was an impressive guy, but I’m not sure he’s worthy of worship.

    I’m referring to Ted Maiman. We never met. He wouldn’t know me from Adam…

  78. 78
    Kay says:

    And given the attempts to run a petroleum sale using funding partial raised by former NRA President David Keene’s wife, as well as her ability to get access to Governor Scott Walker,

    Next up! The religious Right. You all know it’s coming.

    It’s all of them. There are thousands of individuals. Individual 1 thru Individual 10,000. We’re going to need an index.

  79. 79
  80. 80
    Ruckus says:

    @Adam L Silverman:
    How many years have you waited to use that joke?

  81. 81
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: When it was reported that RBG broke her rib, BettyC and I were kibbitzing offline about how Cole had offered to be her human bubble wrap until a Democrat was president again. I sent BettyC the following reply to her reminding me of that:

    If that was the case and Cole was acting as human bubble wrap, the headline this AM would be: Macrocephalic, Extra Plus Sized West Virginia Man Trips Over the Fasteners of His Best Overalls Trying to Pet an Exceptionally Good Dog and Breaks Three Ribs While Serving as Justice Ginsburg’s Human Shield.

    Its funny because it could be true!

  82. 82
    piratedan says:

    @jl: well consider the venue that this was unfolding in…. Adam has stated that this project has involved penetration at multiple levels… and while at face value, passing off Ms. Butina is plain sight brought nary a concern from the vast majority of our media… for fucks sake we had Chuck Todd asking about how does the GOP respond as a political party in 2020 when to anyone with a fucking clue wonders who the fuck will be left in the GOP to run for public office because at the rate that this is going, in a normally sane, just society, all of these folks would be in jail.

    Consider, to wit, the mercurial nature of the media when one blockbusting scandal point after another was dropped into their laps from the Trump campaign and The Grey Lady of the media dutifully planted the story somewhere in their paper and from there it was never followed up upon because there was yet still more need to follow up on the “Clinton Scandal” of someone sending her after-the-fact security telltales, that weren’t marked as such or identified properly and its all her fault because she received them….

    So… I’m just going to posit that perhaps Senor Vlad had a pretty good notion of how to steer the story one way or the other because as soon as something reared its ugly head, he could shitcan it to the backpages courtesy of the NYT, or have another round of leaked e-mails du juor or if that all failed, coordinate a social media blitz out of nothing….

  83. 83
    cain says:


    @Adam L Silverman: On the bright side AD&D usually pays out at two times the rate of regular life insurance!

    Do we need a many sided dice for this insurance?

  84. 84
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Platonailedit: Yep.

  85. 85
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @jl: Apparently he’s buds with Jared and Ivanka. They were pushing for him.

  86. 86
    kindness says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Tradecraft? They were outsmarted by a squirrel and a moose all the time.

  87. 87
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @jl: Actually he’s implicated in former Missouri Governor Eric Greiten’s crimes and is also implicated in the alleged crimes of Missouri Senator-elect Josh Hawley’s crimes that are being investigated by Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft.

    He’s also got a wee bit of a drinking problem…

  88. 88
    Mandalay says:

    @Adam L Silverman: I’m referring to Ted Maiman:

    The laser was successfully fired on May 16, 1960.

    Wow. Over 58 years before Kelly.

  89. 89
    tobie says:

    @Adam L Silverman: if I recall correctly, both Tad Devine and Chuck Todd’s wife earned a percentage of every dollar the Sanders’ campaign spent on TV advertising.

  90. 90
    Ceci n est pas mon nym says:

    I must say I’m surprised at how we’ve apparently moved into the beginning of the end while we’re still in the lame duck period, and how rapidly it’s accelerating. I really expected things wouldn’t start getting interesting until Jan. 3.

    Speaking of things coming unraveled, any new election fraud crimes turn up in NC-09?

    @Platonailedit: He doesn’t think McConnell will have his back in the Senate?

  91. 91
    SFAW says:

    Not to be a Debbie Downer (no offense to our own commenter debbie, of course), but all the stores are closed, and I feel the sudden urge to pop a shitload of popcorn, but I ran out last week. DAMMIT

    I guess I should have planned for this, since last week’s Infrastructure Week was so fun.

  92. 92
    jl says:

    @Ruckus: True. But I was looking at from a narrower view, if I needed to inject a boatload of cash quick into GOTV to elect my guy, and I didn’t mind burning a bunch of old fools in some corrupt reactionary old boys’ network, like the NRA, the Butina operation seems like an effective, cheap, and fun way to do it. Even brutal authoritarians need to put some fun into their work.

    So, the way I am thinking about, one of two extremes is possibly true. Butina’s group is scared shitless and working quick to get the best deal, and best chance of survival that they can. Or, they are referring to the Kremlin’s instructions to keep careful notes so they can put them into the plea deal after it blows up, and their last task is to create maximum chaos as Trump comes crashing down.

    And if Putin’s spies and eavesdropping is as good as supposed, they must have known more or less what they’d get with Trump. Keeping Democrats out was probably the main thing, and then with Trump, they could take a flyer on maybe getting sanctions lifted.

  93. 93
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Gin & Tonic: With timeshares for the Israelis, the Saudis, and the Emiratis.

  94. 94
    jl says:

    @Adam L Silverman: @Adam L Silverman: Tanks for info. Sounds like a total botch, and he is quick witted enough to scram when things started to look really sketchy. The Trumpsters!!

    Edit: and thanks for film.

  95. 95
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Ruckus: None, it just seemed topical to Villagio’s comment.

  96. 96
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @cain: +7 rolls protection against having a bathtub dropped on you while in bed.

  97. 97
    tobie says:

    @Ruckus: Add to this bleak picture the chaos Putin has caused in the UK with Brexit, Germany with the rise of the AfD and anti-immigrant sentiment, and now France with fuel riots. It’s relatively easy to destroy institutions, much harder to build.

  98. 98
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @tobie: The corruption in the professional political advisor biz is pervasive. It’s a damn racket.

  99. 99
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @kindness: But that squirrel and moose had graduated from Wossamotta University.

  100. 100

    @Adam L Silverman: this sort of thinking inspired a protagonist of mine: an actuary who is also a highly-trained wizard. His name is Dennis Howell.

  101. 101
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Mandalay: Oy vey…

  102. 102
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @tobie: If they were the coordinators for his advertisement buys, then most likely.

  103. 103
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @Adam L Silverman: @jl: Apparently he’s buds with Jared and Ivanka. They were pushing for him.

    One of the reasons I find this so funny, it’s a fuck-you to them as well as The Beast

    @tobie: Chuck Todd’s wife earned a percentage of every dollar the Sanders’ campaign
    How am I just now finding out that Mrs Chuck Todd worked for the Wilmer campaign?

  104. 104
    Bobby Thomson says:

    I just want to know when the NRA is going to defend our right to keep and bear smocking guns.

  105. 105
    Mandalay says:

    For those of us here (including me) who have been skeptical about the argument that the “good guys” in Trump’s Administration should stick around to minimize the damage rather than resign on principle over some current debacle, here’s something of a rebuttal:

    Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was livid last month when he summoned top military officials to a video conference at the Pentagon to press them about an investigation into a 2017 ambush in Niger that killed four Americans on a Green Beret team. His anger, Pentagon officials said, came from seeing news reports that junior officers were being reprimanded for the botched Niger mission while the officers directly above them were not.

    Days later, a senior officer who had largely escaped punishment was told he would be reprimanded. Another senior officer’s actions before and around the time of the mission were also under new scrutiny.

    And this week, Capt. Michael Perozeni, a more junior officer who had received much of the public blame for the mission received word from the Army: His reprimand was rescinded.

    The ever changing stories fed to the media at the time stank to high heaven, and it’s good to see that the truth is finally emerging. This story is being swamped by other news, but it certainly raises my opinion of Mattis.

  106. 106
    nmgal says:

    @Adam L Silverman: But what about ID&D (Intentional Death and Dismemberment) claims? An FSA recruit might need such coverage…

  107. 107
    jl says:

    @tobie: To be fair, decrepit and corrupt US and UK institutions, and particularly incompetent and depraved conservative political establishments, gave Putin a whole lot of help.

    And as for France, a lot of that is Macron. When he was elected there was doubt about his plans. Some thought he would take France on a new path of reform towards a Nordic model, and others thought he was basically a Eurozone technocrat would follow their dubious structural reform ideas. So, for example, with labor markets, would Macron follow a Danish flexisecurity reform (less labor regulation in exchange for more generous social support of unemployed), or more standard Eurozone austerity and European version of supply side? Looks like so far he has followed standard Eurozone technocrat pollcies that look a lot like trickle down austerity to the middle and working classes.

    So, I am not sympathetic to blaming every US, UK, and European political problem on Putin. We all pitched in. Of course, can probably find some Putin financed yellow jackets, but it is a very diverse group from leftists to anti-immigrant LePen types. But the common gripe that gets a lot of people out in the streets is, IMHO, Macron’s so far unsuccessful domestic economic policies, even though Macron may be very good in other ways.

  108. 108
    Steeplejack says:


    Prepping to rough it in the post-Trump apocalyptic hellscape?

  109. 109
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Major Major Major Major: Thanks for the information?

  110. 110
    jl says:

    @tobie: And as for the way the UK has handled their idiotic Brexit, even how it got to a vote in the first place, do we really think Putin is that creative? It a real arrogant, incompetent, and out-of-touch ultra-twit like Cameron to get that ball of crap rolling.

  111. 111
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Mandalay: This type of action is not usually taken even though it should be.

  112. 112
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @nmgal: At this point you’re going to have to talk to Anderson as we’ve surpassed my knowledge of how insurance works.

  113. 113
  114. 114
    🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)  🗳🌷 says:

    @Adam L Silverman:
    It’s called exposition!

  115. 115
  116. 116
    Ladyraxterinok says:

    @🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)  🗳🌷: Isn’t Prayer Breakfast run by The Family that Jeff Sharlet wrote a book about?

    A decades old program to bring tohether (vetted) leaders all over the eorld to create and sustain a ‘leader’ run program to maintain rigid hierarchy vs any attempt to create some sort of equality/democracy.

  117. 117
    tobie says:

    @jl: I agree with you that there are multiple reasons for the protests in France, and the list of demands I’ve seen cross a huge ideological spectrum.

    Regarding the Brexit vote: Cameron may have stupidly called it but my understanding is that there’s now substantial evidence of Russian interference in the run-up to the vote. Putin may not be able to create rifts, but he’s skilled at amplifying them, and in an age of social media that turns out to be a surprisingly cheap thing to do.

  118. 118
    Mandalay says:


    arrogant, incompetent, and out-of-touch ultra-twit like Cameron

    Exactly right.

    He was arrogant because it never even occurred to him that those supporting Brexit would win.

    He was incompetent because he was under no serious pressure to hold the Brexit referendum at all.

    And he was an ultra-twit because he’d already dodged a bullet with the Scottish independence referendum, but failed to learn anything from that.

  119. 119
    tobie says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist: My understanding is that Kristian Todd owns and runs a company that did ad buys for Wilmer and she got a cut. She also did this for Jim Webb and another politician so this may be more of an example of campaign grift than ideological commitment. I’m on my phone so I can’t check easily right now.

  120. 120
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Ladyraxterinok: Yes it is. And the whole point of the Family/the Fellowship is to promote oligarchic based authoritarianism to promote their version of Christian theocracy.

  121. 121
    Kattails says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Well OK then. A friend sent me an email with scans of real headings from assorted newspapers (going back awhile). A few:
    “Worker suffers leg pain after crane drops 800-pound ball on his head.”
    “Tiger Woods plays with own balls, Nike says.” (did not need to know this.)
    “17 remain dead in morgue shooting spree.” (there’s a Monty Python skit in here somewhere.)
    “Man Accused of Killing Lawyer Receives a New Attorney” (ummm)
    “Homicide victims rarely talk to police.”
    “Miracle cure kills fifth patient” (this was an AP story)
    and finally,
    “Republicans turned off by size of Obama’s package.” (heh)

  122. 122
    jl says:

    @tobie: I agree with you that knowing what we know now about Putin’s ability to exploit dangerous and fraught situations, another reason for national leaders not do do irresponsible and risky things, especially for no good reason. I think Cameron was thinking calling the non-binding Brexit vote would be calling the reactionaries bluff and be a cheap and easy way to bring them down a notch. I think in his mind it was a cheap trick that would be easier to pull off than good policy for the country, and leadership for his party

  123. 123
    jl says:

    @tobie: That is how our corrupt political financial system works all across the ideological spectrum. You wedge yourself in as a consultant, and you get a cut of all big media buy money that you can grab a hold of to ‘manage’.

  124. 124
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Kattails: You missed this all time classic:

    Bottoming is a messy process
    Published: Aug 19, 2011 12:01 a.m. ET

    CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (MarketWatch) — Bottoming is a process, not an event.

  125. 125
    VeniceRiley says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist: Because Chuck didn’t disclose on air every night he took a bat to Hillary that he had a family conflict.

    Speaking of Hillary- she was the only one that didn’t have the Ayers/Devine grifter ad man setup that so many campaigns have.

  126. 126
    J R in WV says:


    All those evangelical fundamentalists, the Calvinists, they’re all patriarchal top-down leadership cults. Democracy is an evil word and a terrible concept to all of those people. You do what you’re told to do, or you’re out of here with nothing but the clothes on your back.

    Own a business? Better not have a loan, or it’s going to be called if you piss off the Bishop or any of his henchmen. You’re a Doctor? Like having patients? Hew ye to the line preached in the last sermon by the Bishop, or your practice is over with. No one will see a doctor who has been shunned by the Bishop!! No one!!

    And that’s how they want the whole nation to be – beholden to the Bishops of their church, which has no interest in helping the poor or downtrodden, who are expected to work hard cleaning that church after every service, or get the heck out of town!!

    No Jesus in any of those churches, and no Bible reading, the preachers and Bishops will TELL you what their Bible says you need to know, which is to get down and pray and tithe 15% of your income to the Bishop’s fund. And yes, they do know your income to the penny, and your tithing needs to be current all the time!

    They will also know who you voted for for mayor and sheriff. A terrible religion for a terrible world. But that’s what The Family believes in, and is fully prepared to force you to believe in also, too!

  127. 127
    stinger says:

    @Ladyraxterinok: Yes, and for the first time I have a glimmer of hope that Grassley might be caught up in this. Haven’t seen his name in the reporting yet, but a girl can hope. Oh, pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease.

  128. 128
    Ladyraxterinok says:

    @rikyrah: Weren’t he and his firm involved in the campaign, administration, and defence of disgraced ex MO governor?!?!

  129. 129
    Ruckus says:

    Jesus this isn’t a novel, it’s real life. Vlad doesn’t give a shit about anything concerning us except that he removes us as a thorn in his side. He doesn’t care if he destroys us or we do it to ourselves, it’s the same for him. If he gets fully exposed, it won’t do shit to his world standing but it will tear us apart even further, because all the supposed good republicans will be exposed for the frauds they are, their supporters won’t give a fuck because they were doing gods work and democrats will once again have to clean up the fucking sewer until the next time the republicans get their dumb fucking paid for asses elected and it starts all over again. Vlad needs the disruption in our country, he needs nothing else from us. The ineptitude, destruction of our government, and the bought and paid for shitheads that are doing it are just the icing on the cake. Notice how the NRA is now claiming to be broke. From putting 35 million into politics a year ago, they got nothing now. Vlad doesn’t think he needs them any more, and that’s why.

  130. 130
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Ladyraxterinok: Yes and the alleged crimes of Senator-elect Hawley as well.

  131. 131
    jl says:

    @Ruckus: I admit the current GOP and their reactionary cronies are a big problem, and have opened us up to potentially disastrous consequences. But the current corrupt GOP would have done what it is doing in NC and WI, for example, with or without Putin messing with the elections . I think election results like 2018 will solve it, in fact, the only way to solve it. So, i’ll be contributing and working for a repeat of 2018 in 2020.

    We face serious danger from within and without, but the danger from without is only possible because of the GOP rot within the country. So, I think most important to deal with that part.

  132. 132
    PJ says:

    @Gin & Tonic: Maybe Robert Byrd going from KKK member to strong supporter of civil rights and civil liberties generally?

  133. 133
    Kattails says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Nice. I’ll tuck it in with the others.
    And Individual 1’s bottoming will be quite….. no wait cancel that I do not want to think about I-1’s bottom at all. Time for bed.

  134. 134
    Sebastian says:

    @Adam L Silverman:
    Although $54m might be worthless on death row. You know, result of being COS of Mike Pence, Traitor to the Republic

    Some people are way too naive about the intensity of wrath they are about incure once the American public turns.

  135. 135
    Kattails says:

    @Ruckus: I have no doubt that Vlad is one of the most breathtakingly cynical human beings on the planet. How we can make it play out on our end… we must keep moving forward. Might as well stay reasonably optimistic, it’s easier on the endocrine system.

  136. 136
    Ladyraxterinok says:

    @Steeplejack: And buying Jim Bakker’s food buckets? Special holiday discounts?

  137. 137
    smike says:

    @Bobby Thomson:
    Where there’s smock, there’s covfefe. That I can tell you!

  138. 138
    smike says:

    At times, changing things up can be refreshing. Maybe take a breath, relax, and try it again.

  139. 139
    Ladyraxterinok says:

    @J R in WV: IIRC it’s Robert Morris’ megachurch in TX that has a machine in the foyer to instantly pay offering/tithe with credit card. He also is plagued by demons. And helped re-establish Mark Driscoll who was kicked out of his position as preacher at Seattle’s Mars Hill church.

    Driscoll is the one who claims most preachers are sissified. He taught women should submit to their husbands and that the bible advocates oral and anal sex. Some claim these teachings were the reason Mars Hill attracted so many young hipster males. Temple prostitutes, anybody?

    Driscoll also preached a notorious sermon that said the whole story in the book of Esther depicts her as a well-trained prostitue!

  140. 140
    Ruckus says:

    I may not sound like it but I am reasonably optimistic. It is really possible we can recover from this mess. But I’d bet it’s going to get worse before it gets better for a few reasons.
    First, Vlad is doing his shit all over, not just with us.
    Second, there are a lot of stupid, selfish people in this world. And not just here.
    Third, it’s just as often one step forward, two steps back rather than 1 3/4 forward, two back. Many people are afraid of change, afraid they will be left behind. And right now the US is built that way, that a lot of people will get left behind, because the uber wealthy don’t give a shit about anything but getting more uber.
    We can’t just fix this current mess, we also have to build it back better. That’s a lot harder than just restoring a working government. But this is the time to do that. And I think we can.

  141. 141
    Chris Johnson says:

    @piratedan: He controls the NYT, Bezos controls the WaPo.

    Like Adam Silverman says, penetration at all levels.

    It’s driven by late stage capitalism, not treachery alone. People feel compelled to rake in ALL THE MONEY, again at all levels.

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