Late Night RussiaFvckery-Adjacent Open Thread: All-American Con Artist Indicted

Another two-bit grifter who’d still be safely under the radar if only Trump hadn’t been inserted into the White House by a foreign power:

Paul Erickson became the subject of public interest after his girlfriend, Maria Butina, was charged last year and pleaded guilty to conspiring with a senior Russian official to infiltrate American conservative political circles as an undeclared agent for the Kremlin…

As part of that plea, Butina admitted to working with an American political operative to forge connections with officials at the National Rifle Association, conservative leaders and 2016 presidential candidates, including Donald Trump.

The political operative has been identified by government officials as Erickson, a longtime GOP political adviser from South Dakota, who managed the 1992 presidential campaign of Pat Buchanan. Erickson’s lawyer, William Hurd, has said he is a “good American” who “has never done anything to hurt our country and never would.”…

One of the money transfers listed in the indictment as an instance of money laundering is a $20,472 payment Erickson made in June 2017 to American University — the school Butina attended…

Didn’t have a chance to post this earlier, but it would seem relevant. From the NYTimes, “N.R.A. Seeks Distance From Russia as Investigations Heat Up”:

When a delegation of high-profile donors, boosters and board members from the National Rifle Association traveled to Russia in 2015, they visited a gun factory in Moscow, took in a ballet and met with members of Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.

But now the N.R.A. is seeking to distance itself from the trip, after revelations that a Russian woman who helped arrange it, Maria Butina, was conspiring to infiltrate the organization.

The trip has been a subject of scrutiny in at least four inquiries into the N.R.A.’s ties to Russia; questions about the N.R.A. have also surfaced in the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. Newly empowered congressional Democrats are now stepping up efforts to uncover how much money the N.R.A. received from Russia, and whether the group served as a conduit for Russian funds into the 2016 Trump campaign…

The trip was organized by David Keene, a former N.R.A. president who was close to Ms. Butina, and who had his own interests in Russia. An email between a member of the delegation and Paul Erickson, a Republican operative who is Ms. Butina’s boyfriend, suggests that Mr. Keene, who was then the opinion editor of The Washington Times, hoped to secure an interview with Vladimir V. Putin, the Russian president, according to people familiar with the email. Mr. Keene also later explored a deal to import Russian gas with Ms. Butina’s help, though it never appeared close to fruition…

Also along for the Russia trip were Joseph R. Gregory, co-chairman of the N.R.A.’s Golden Ring of Freedom, a group for donors of $1 million or more; and Pete Brownell, then the organization’s first vice president, who would later become president.

A critical question for investigators is the extent of the N.R.A.’s financial ties to Russia. While the N.R.A. has turned over thousands of pages of records in the Senate inquiries, those documents do not include the organization’s closely held donor records; it is possible, however, that federal investigators have obtained the organization’s tax records from the Internal Revenue Service…

Be some kind of karmic justice if this foreign-espionage investigation is what exposes today’s NRA as a classic mail-order address-scraping con targeting gun-hoarders and xenophobes, yes?

The Daily Beast has more details about Erickson’s other, non-NRA grifting of fellow conservatives:

33 replies
  1. 1
    JR says:

    Maybe they should have listened to Avon Barksdale.

  2. 2
    ChicagoPat says:

    Are we to the point that we can admit that Russia has been using the NRA to foment and sustain civil unrest in the US, paralyzing our ability to respond to it legislatively by financially (or otherwise) compromising multiple Republican legislators?

  3. 3
    MobiusKlein says:

    The silence from the R side deafens me.
    A bit of a contrast, despite these actions sharing a decade.

  4. 4
    Mary G says:

    I still want to know why that group of seven or so Republican senators went to Russia over the 4th of July.

  5. 5
    eclare says:

    @Mary G: Hopefully Mueller does too

  6. 6

    Who among us hasn’t been fleecing the marks? //

  7. 7
    tobie says:

    Is it just me or have GOP smear campaigns reached a feverish pitch these past few days not only in Virginia but also against Warren (her Texas bar card) and Klobuchar (a demanding boss)? Something smells fishy here. Maybe this means more indictments soon.

  8. 8
    prostratedragon says:

    @tobie:
    Music to chalk one’s cues by, from Berlioz

  9. 9
    sukabi says:

    @tobie: the next several months are going to be UGLY, skeletons real and phony rattling out of closets.

  10. 10

    Being that’s it’s an open thread, there is truth to the rumor that I take pictures: LA after a cold storm.

  11. 11

    Once again, this could all have been averted if this schmuck had watched The Wire.

    “Is you taking notes on a criminal fucking conspiracy? The fuck is you thinking?” -Stringer Bell

    It’s almost as evergreen as the All the President’s Men quote.

  12. 12
    Bess says:

    @sukabi:

    the next several months are going to be UGLY, skeletons real and phony rattling out of closets

    Perhaps we would benefit from a discussion about how to handle announced skeletons, real or phony, in a manner other than shoot first and then ask questions.

    Seems like we should investigate before announcing judgement.

    And, if found guilty, we should make the punishment fit the crime. Jaywalking and armed assault should not receive the same punishment.

    Furthermore we should look at someone’s more recent behavior when found guilty of something well in the past. Have they atoned? Have they reformed? Who are they now, the same person they were in the past or someone different?

  13. 13
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Bess:

    Jaywalking and armed assault should not receive the same punishment.

    I agree.

  14. 14
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    The National Russian Association is a terrorist group. Treat them as such.

  15. 15

    @Bess: The Republican ratfuckers are beginning to overplay their hand, as they usually do. A few of our kneejerking brethren are apparently beginning to catch on. It’s good that we’re still so far from the election……………..maybe by the time we get closer these tactics will have lost their effectiveness. Let’s hope so.

  16. 16
    Bess says:

    @John Revolta: I’m suggesting we have a public discussion about how to react rather than hoping kneejerkers catch on.

  17. 17
    Ladyraxterinok says:

    @tobie: Isn’t there a smear going on vs Kamela Harris as well??

  18. 18
    sukabi says:

    @Bess: the biggest problem will be the media amplifying any supposed scandal. Elizabeth Warren’s ethnic background for instance shouldn’t even be a blip on their radar, but that’s their preferred Warren topic.

    How do you change the media focus from trivial pursuits to issues with real life consequences?

  19. 19
    Bess says:

    @sukabi: How the media responds is a different topic, though related.

    I’d like to see us clean our house.

    And I’d like to see us rise the defense of our folks when attacked.

    I’m not sure of the best way to do either. I’m suggesting a discussion to see what we can dream up.

  20. 20
    Viva BrisVegas says:

    An investigation into the sentencing of Jeffrey Epstein has also been opened.

    This is not just a matter of justice, but also that several tentacles of this corrupt case point in Trump’s direction via Mar-a-Lago and Acosta.

  21. 21

    @Ladyraxterinok: Yes. There’s some talk about a relationship she had years ago with some crooked local pol name of Willie Brown. It seems very inside baseball but ratfuckers gonna ratfuck.

  22. 22

    @Bess: I’d like that too, but I don’t know if some people are ready or even capable. And I suspect there’s some folks getting paid NOT to discuss it reasonably. It’s a problem.

  23. 23
    Bess says:

    @John Revolta: I suspect a front pager could set up the discussion so that it is limited to only future events. A strict requirement to mention none of the past events, or at least to discuss them.

  24. 24
    sukabi says:

    @Bess: think that’s a chicken / egg conundrum. Media blasts something out, folks react or not, media continues to “discuss” subject until they get a reaction.

    I think there needs to be a concerted effort to challenge the media on how / what they deem news worthy, and if what they’re reporting on informs the public or is merely gossip mongering.

    As for how we react….think folks have gotten addicted to being outraged, separating thoughtless and stupid “scandals” from the reprehensible and criminal ones shouldn’t be that hard.

  25. 25
    rikyrah says:

    When your Boo is a spy……where did you think that it would lead to?😒😒

  26. 26
  27. 27
    rikyrah says:

    @John Revolta:
    But, he already admitted it and said..so what?

  28. 28
    Bruce K says:

    I suspect that from Moscow’s perspective, the ideal endgame for this clusterfbeep is indictiments and impeachments and Republicans fighting tooth-and-nail every step of the way, and the longer it takes the US to clean up the domestic wreckage, the better, because that’ll distract us from getting in Vlad and company’s way as they do whatever the hell they want.

    Doesn’t change the fact that we’ve got to clean this crap up, and some very powerful people need to go to prison for their crimes until they die, but we’re far beyond the point where this can be solved without a lot of pain and damage.

  29. 29
    low-tech cyclist says:

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA:

    Being that’s it’s an open thread, there is truth to the rumor that I take pictures: LA after a cold storm.

    Great pix! I especially love the one of the canal (it’s about the 10th pic in the slide show) and the Clayton Plumbers shot.

  30. 30
    Citizen_X says:

    Erickson…who managed the 1992 presidential campaign of Pat Buchanan….is a “good American” who “has never done anything to hurt our country and never would.”

    Excuse me, but, starting in 1992…

  31. 31
    Denali says:

    Funny how all the female candidates suddenly have developed anvils around their necks which the media will attach and which we will hear about incessantly until the smear sticks. Elizabeth Warren/DNA; Kristen Gillebrand/tossing Franken under the bus(never mind that the hive mind is now tossing Northam)Kamela Harris/sleeping her way to political power; now Amy Klobuchar treaking her staff badly. Can we just step back and give our potential candidates a chance to show what they offer.

  32. 32
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @sukabi: The thing is that the MSM is wholly driven by whatever will attract eyeballs and clicks. Purely mercenary, ratings/revenue is their only motivation now, driven from the top. Our media paradigm is badly, badly flawed.

  33. 33
    JGabriel says:

    WaPo via Anne Laurie @ Top:

    Erickson’s lawyer, William Hurd, has said he is a “good American” who “has never done anything to hurt our country and never would.”…

    Erickson is a Republican political operative: Hurting America IS his career.

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