Breaking News: The Department of Justice Has Arrested Maria Butina

From the Department of Justice:

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

Monday, July 16, 2018

Russian National Charged in Conspiracy to Act as an Agent of the Russian Federation Within the United States

A criminal complaint was unsealed today in the District of Columbia charging a Russian national with conspiracy to act as an agent of the Russian Federation within the United States without prior notification to the Attorney General.

The announcement was made by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Jessie K. Liu, and Nancy McNamara, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.

Mariia Butina, 29, a Russian citizen residing in Washington D.C., was arrested on July 15, 2018, in Washington, D.C., and made her initial appearance this afternoon before Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. She was ordered held pending a hearing set for July 18, 2018.

According to the affidavit in support of the complaint, from as early as 2015 and continuing through at least February 2017, Butina worked at the direction of a high-level official in the Russian government who was previously a member of the legislature of the Russian Federation and later became a top official at the Russian Central Bank.  This Russian official was sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control in April 2018.

The court filings detail the Russian official’s and Butina’s efforts for Butina to act as an agent of Russia inside the United States by developing relationships with U.S. persons and infiltrating organizations having influence in American politics, for the purpose of advancing the interests of the Russian Federation. The filings also describe certain actions taken by Butina to further this effort during multiple visits from Russia and, later, when she entered and resided in the United States on a student visa. The filings allege that she undertook her activities without officially disclosing the fact that she was acting as an agent of Russian government, as required by law.

The charges in criminal complaints are merely allegations and every defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The maximum penalty for conspiracy is five years.  The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes.  If convicted of any offense, a defendant’s sentence will be determined by the court based on the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The investigation into this matter was conducted by the FBI’s Washington Field Office. The case is being prosecuted by the National Security Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and the National Security Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Here’s the link to the complaint and to the affidavit.

This is a huge arrest. Butina was a go between for Alexander Torshin on behalf of Putin and the National Rifle Association. As I wrote in December 2017:

In the Russian case a lot of the penetration that is being reported on and made public appears to have been focused solely on more politically, socially, economically, and religiously conservative sectors, groups, and organizations in the US. The Daily Beast first reported on Russia’s connections to the NRA back in February 2017. This was the first of three articles that delineated the creation of a Russian firearms sporting organization partially led by Marina Butina. Specifically:

Two of Butina’s friendships in particular have raised eyebrows. She started a business with Paul Erickson, a decades-long Republican Party activist. And she served as a special assistant to the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank, Alexander Torshin, a former Russian senator belonging to Vladimir Putin’s political party with alleged ties to the Russian mob world.

 As chilled vodka flowed through an ice sculpture—a bottle imprinted with the Soviet hammer and sickle—she took some time to brag. She brazenly claimed that she had been part of the Trump campaign’s communications with Russia, two individuals who were present said. On other occasions, in one of her graduate classes, she repeated this claim.

Erickson and Butina have been seen in public frequently, at the invitation-only Freedom Ball after Trump’s inauguration; and holding court at Russia House, a Russian-themed bar in Washington, D.C.’s Dupont Circle. At one such gathering in the fall of 2016 Erickson bragged that he was advising the Trump transition team, according to two sources who were present; he is also said to have told a story about introducing Mikhail Kalashnikov, inventor of the AK-47, to former NRA president David Keene. (Kalashnikov allegedly inspired the creation of “The Right to Bear Arms,” Butina’s gun rights group.)

The two appear to have gotten close: Erickson formed a limited liability corporation with Butina in February 2016, according to the South Dakota secretary of state. It is unclear what this organization, Bridges, LLC, actually does. (Despite living in Washington, D.C., Butina has a cellphone number with a South Dakota area code.)

In The Daily Beast‘s second report, Tim Mak expands on his reporting from February 2017 by digging into the meeting between members of the NRA and Dmitry Rogozin, one of Putin’s hard line deputies and the head of the Russian Shooting Federation, which would make him either Butina’s partner or boss. The Daily Beast‘s third article on this topic delves even deeper to who was at the meeting with Rogozin. Specifically former Milwaukee County Sheriff, Fox News analyst, extremist anti-US government Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officer Association Sheriff of the Year, campaign proxy and Republican National Convention prime time speaker, and withdrawn nominee for political appointment at the Department of Homeland Security David Clarke. And former NRA President and current board member David Keene.

Here’s Rogozin’s tweet about the event. You’ll notice Clarke’s in the second photo. Keene is in the first standing next to Rogozin.

Butina, and her patron Torshin, were connected to the NRA by long time GOP operative Paul Erickson. Erickson sent the email to Trump campaign official Rick Dearborn, as well as reaching out to now Attorney General Sessions seeking a meeting between then candidate Trump and Torshin at the NRA annual meeting. That meeting was scheduled and then cancelled. Instead Torshin met briefly with Donald Trump Jr at the NRA annual meeting banquet. Erickson set up a LLC in South Dakota to, allegedly, pay for Butina’s doctoral studies in DC.

This arrest and indictment is a very big deal. It, like Friday’s indictments, is further evidence that Special Counsel Mueller’s team has complete visibility on the network around the Russian active measures and cyberwarfare campaign even as this case was brought by the DC office, not the Special Counsel’s. Both the ongoing Russian activities and their involvement in the 2016 campaign. And as was the case with Friday’s indictments. If I was part of the NRA’s leadership or one of the NRA officials who went on the junket to Russia, let alone a host of GOP elected and appointed officials, with ties to Erickson, I’d be very, very nervous right now.

Stay weapons free!

Open thread.

Helsinki Summit News Conference Live

Here’s the live feed for the President’s news conference with Putin at the end of their Helsinki summit.


I’ve been away from the news most of the morning and am just now getting caught up. I think the real concern with the Helsinki meetings, as was the case with the Singapore summit with Kim Jong Un, is that we will only find out what the President said or agreed to in the one on one when either he tells us or when Putin does. An immediate worry has to do with US operations in Syria. As Josh Marshall highlighted yesterday, The Jerusalem Post, which builds on Adam Entous’s reporting in The New Yorker, has reported that the Israelis working with the Saudis and the Emiratis have been pushing the President to strike a grand bargain regarding Syria. Specifically that the US will withdraw from Syria, which the President has wanted to do for months, freeing up Russia and their local proxy Assad to control Syria and crush the rebels. The cost would be that Putin must push Iran, which is Assad’s other patron, out of Syria. In March the President froze all humanitarian aid to Syria and in the past month the US Special Forces that had been conducted an advise and assist mission with the Syrian rebels in Daraa have been pulled out. This is why Assad, with Putin’s backing, felt comfortable attacking the rebel strongholds in and around Daraa. This left not just the rebels, but the people in the region at Assad’s tender mercies.

The reason that this deal would be terrible is that the US led coalition has not defeated ISIS in Syria or Iraq. What has happened, is that free of having to function as both a military and political/social organization because of the loss of the physical caliphate, ISIS has been able to focus on the terrorist attacks that were its hallmark prior to trying to build an actual state. And because ISIS hasn’t been defeated, should the US pull out of Syria it leaves those in Syria seeking to remove the dictatorial Assad from power with only two choices: capitulate to Assad’s government or support ISIS. If the US stops its unconventional warfare strategy, a strategy of working by, with, and through our Syrian Arab and Kurdish partners on a train, advise, and assist mission, it removes the viable alternatives to Assad or ISIS. Moreover, a premature end to the US operations in Syria would once again be a betrayal of our Kurdish allies in the region, which will further cement the belief that the US cannot be counted on to finish what it either starts or encourages others to start with the promise of support. Finally, Putin doesn’t have a tremendous amount of leverage over Iran. If anyone thinks that Putin can, let alone would, push Iran out of Syria is delusional. Iran has far more personnel in Iran than Russia does. Iran is fighting in its own region, where it seeks to be the regional hegemon. And it has the best strategist within the region on the battlefield in Syria coordinating efforts, which is why things started turning around in Syria’s favor back in 2013. Prematurely ending the unconventional warfare strategy in Syria by removing US Special Forces and stopping their train, advise, and assist mission would be strategic malpractice. It will only serve to strengthen both Assad and ISIS, which will make things worse for actual Syrians. And despite the inane assessment of Benjamin Netanyahi, Muhammed bin Salman, and Muhammed bin Zayed, it is highly unlikely to get Iran out of Syria and contained within Iran’s borders.

Open thread!

The Shitlord or Mastermind Question Is Irrelevant Now

Prior to making his way to Helsinki for tomorrow’s performance review with Boss Putin, Trump gave an interview to slobbering fanboy Piers Morgan aboard Air Force One. The interview is so severely cringe-inducing that it might cause more sensitive readers to collapse inward upon themselves and be transformed into a small, indescribably dense ball of shame.

But before we get to that, here’s an excerpt from a slightly more consequential interview Ocher Omnishambles did with CBS:

HELSINKI — President Trump said in a new interview airing Sunday that he hadn’t thought of pressing Russian President Vladimir Putin on extraditing the dozen Russian officials charged with hacking Democratic emails, while continuing to blame Democrats for the stolen emails that upended the 2016 presidential campaign.

“Well, I might,” Trump said when asked during an interview with CBS News about extraditing the indicted intelligence agents. “I hadn’t thought of that. But I certainly, I’ll be asking about it. But again, this was during the Obama administration. They were doing whatever it was during the Obama administration…”

“We [the RNC] had much better defenses. I’ve been told that by a number of people. We had much better defenses, so they couldn’t,” Trump said during the CBS interview. “I think the DNC should be ashamed of themselves for allowing themselves to be hacked. They had bad defenses and they were able to be hacked.”

Of course it didn’t occur to him to demand accountability from Putin for the coordinated and wildly successful cyber-attack on American democracy. It benefited Trump, after all, so by definition it was good.

Also, sluts shouldn’t parade around in short skirts — it’s just asking for trouble. They should be ashamed of themselves.

Read more

Pre-Dawn Treason CREEPster Open Thread: Oh, Please… Please

At first he tried to bluff it out, but an hour later that statement (to quote from history) was “no longer operative”…

A federal indictment filed Friday accusing a dozen Russian military intelligence officers of conspiring to hack Democrats during the 2016 campaign spotlights communications between Roger Stone, a longtime adviser to President Trump, and an online persona allegedly operated by the Russians.

Stone has previously acknowledged exchanging direct messages on Twitter in August and September 2016 with Guccifer 2.0, who claimed to be a Romanian hacker. Stone has said there is no proof the account was connected to the Russians.

But according to criminal charges filed Friday by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, Guccifer 2.0 was actually operated by a group of Russian military intelligence officers based in Moscow. The Russians used Guccifer 2.0’s Twitter account to send multiple messages to “a person who was in regular contact with senior members” of Trump’s campaign, Mueller wrote in the indictment.

The messages quoted in court papers match exchanges that Stone had with the account, according to an image he posted on his personal website. A person familiar with the investigation also confirmed that the Trump campaign associate referred to in the indictment is Stone…

Russiagate Open Thread: Clown Car Rogues Gallery, Top to Bottom, Recent & Vintage

There doesn’t seem to have been a single nationally-known Republican above the level of coffee boy who wasn’t part of the Russiagate treason squad…

Read more

Thoughts on DAG Rosenstein’s Announcement of New Indictments Brought by Special Counsel Mueller

Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein just announced indictments of twelve Russian intelligence officers for hacking the DNC, the DCCC, and others on the Clinton campaign, stealing data, and then weaponizing it on behalf of Putin’s active measures and cyberwarfare campaign to harm Secretary Clinton’s campaign in order to promote the President’s campaign. Rosenstein also made it clear that he briefed the President on this earlier in the week, which explains why he was at the White House before the President left for the NATO summit. DAG Rosenstein, in his announcement today, took a swipe at the GOP members of Congress, as well as conservative commentators, who have been trying to downplay Putin’s activities or outright trying to get the Special Counsel’s investigation stopped through a variety of means, by emphasizing that this was an attack on the US and the response transcends partisanship.

You can read the entire indictment here.

As is usual, Special Counsel Mueller is teasing where he’s going. For instance, apparently the GRU took the President’s campaign exhortation to find Secretary Clinton’s emails to heart. This is what they did after he asked them to find them:

Before everyone gets too wound up that this isn’t really news, that this doesn’t actually hold any of the Americans involved to account, etc, let me provide a few thoughts informed from my professional experience. First, if you’ve been watching what the Special Counsel has been doing, this makes sense. Simply put he has method, not madness. His first indictment of nineteen Russian nationals set up this indictment about who actually stole the information. This indictment, like the one that preceded it, is setting up the next one. Special Counsel Mueller is working methodically to build not just a set of related cases, but to have the indictments and the cases tell his narrative of what happened.

As someone who’s both done and taught how to do network based targeting, if I was working for Mueller, I’d be advising that he hold off on the American (and British – Cambridge Analytica/SCL, etc) indictments on this stuff as long as possible as I want to see what the rest of the network, especially the Americans and the British portions start to do now that this indictment has been announced. Even the way that DAG Rosenstein made the announcement is intended to get the rest of the network to respond. By stating that no Americans are indicted in today’s indictment, but that the investigation is ongoing, Rosenstein and Mueller are looking to see what the response will be. Specifically, today’s indictment and announcement are intended to get the too cute by half guys like Stone or Parscale or Don Jr or Giuliani and Prince, and the people they’re connected to – inside and outside of the US (remember the Israelis, the Emiratis, and the Saudis appear to be up to their eyeballs in all of this too), to do something in response that can be tracked through all the links and nodes of the network. This also includes Assange and Wikileaks. The counterintelligence officers who work for Special Counsel Mueller have the network mapped out. They are very good at what they do and will be watching to see what happens to and within and throughout the network now that they’ve grabbed a bunch of nodes and links and given them a good, sharp pull.

It is important to remember that the Special Counsel and his team have the best and clearest view and understanding of what happened, what is still happening, who was and/or is involved, and why. They also have new information and evidence coming in every day to further clarify and enhance their understanding. I know everyone is stressed and anxious, but the overall objective here is safeguarding and securing the US. That takes time. And as much as we’d all like a full, complete accounting right now, it requires secrecy and discretion. Special Counsel Mueller is conducting a spy hunt as much as he’s conducting a criminal investigation. To move from an intelligence to a naval analogy: he’s going to stay rigged to run silent and at depth until he’s ready to move on a target.

Stay frosty!

Open thread.

Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein Press Conference

Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein is scheduled to hold a press conference regarding a law enforcement announcement today at 11:45 AM EDT

While there is no actual leak as to what the announcement will be, as BettyC noted from from former Obama Administration DOJ appointee Eric Columbus’s tweet, the last time he did this was to announce indictments that resulted from the Special Counsel’s investigation.

Here’s the live feed:

Update at 11:50 AM EDT:

Update at 12:10 PM EDT

Based on listening to NBC’s Pete Williams doing his spot in the background while waiting for the press conference to start, the embargo on the DOJ announcement has been lifted and:

Open thread!