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The Russian Butina Bungle

Bob Rogers

December 17, 2018 —“If you plead guilty to a crime your chances are good that you won’t serve any more time in jail.” How good is that? If you’ve already spent six months behind bars for the first time in your life, any reason that might lead to your release is an invitation too hard to ignore.

On August 18, 2018 the Washington Post reported that ”Maria Butina, 29, was indicted July 17 by a grand jury on charges of conspiracy to act and failing to register as an agent of a foreign government. She pleaded not guilty; her attorney said Butina was merely networking to develop relationships with Americans.”

After weeks of American media reports on the indictment as a “Russian spy,” Butina, allured at the prospect of molding her Keep and Bear Arms group into a Russian version of the NRA, the road to a political climax is surging with expectations. Will she go home to Mother Russia or will she return to an American jail cell?

The national media is doing its thing: run as many stories as often as possible in every edition every day to reinforce the idea that the Russians are not only coming, they’ve been messing up the place ever since Donald John Trump got off that NBC Access Hollywood bus and said, “Well, hello there….” to that sweet thing only half dressed for the TV cameras. Trump is the sex idol media loves to hate yet can’t get enough of (we hate ending a sentence with a preposition but, here, it seems appropriate).

Despite weeks – no, months – of speculation about “collusion,” then having a lawyer pay off The Donald’s mistresses, indictments on Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, campaign manager pro tem Paul Manafort, a half dozen other squeaky wheels and then Trump’s personal lawyer who disdains any talk of being afraid of a firing squad – “I’d take a bullet for Mr. Trump” – the District gossip has come down to this: collusion has disappeared like a Spring fog, Trump’s extra marital dalliances with beautiful women that he lacks the power to resist, and a campaign by liberals and their media lapdogs to get rid of Trump anyway they can, and seemingly can’t, their attention now turns to Butina.

Pressed by visions of courthouse victories and resultant media fame, “prosecutors,” a label that has recently come to define lawyers who see themselves as pretenders to the throne and thus invulnerable to criticism because some of whom think they’re smarter than anyone else and whose personal sexual séances have yet to be uncovered, have decided that if they put enough heat on the Russian girl who wanted to learn more about the NRA’s operations that she could take back to her own Russian pro-gun group, she’d have to ‘fess up or go back to her solitary confinement cell like a serial murderer.

What would you do if you hadn’t committed a “crime” but sought out successful entrepreneurs with likes and talents similar to your own but were then arrested as a foreign country spy unless you spilled all the beans that prosecutors count on for their next meal?  You’d cave, of course.  Especially if you wanted out, having been incarcerated far beyond reasonable while awaiting someone – anyone – to let you get on with the court trial or cut you loose.

We’re not saying Butina is guilty or not of trying to gain access to American politicians for whatever reason.  Might one of those reasons be education rather than espionage?  Heaven forbid. Let’s not let another serious crisis – or opportunity – go to waste.

The rest of the world has looked up to America as a country to emulate.  Nobody’s trying to get out of the U.S., despite what election-losing Hollywood stars and starlets have said pre-Trump’s election.  People are trying to get in.  That’s what the border wall is all about; Katy bar the door!  So the passing back and forth of curious Americans flocking to other countries to see and to learn – and vice versa in the case of Butina and others – is something to be encouraged, if not watched.

The feds, who often boast about their ability to vanish in bright daylight, could put a permanent tail on Butina to determine who she sees, what she says and where she goes. There may not be any real substance in doing that but at the very least they’d be able to determine if they have a serious case of cloak-and-dagger tradecraft or not.

In a story published  Saturday December 14 in Bloomberg, of all sources, and titled, The Maria Butina Case Is Not About Spying – and sub-headed, Why did U.S. authorities bother to pursue a Russian gun-rights activist for activities they could easily have ignored? The answer should worry you – it is fundamentally clear that over anxious prosecutors were looking for a political mole to provide credence that might tie Russia to Trump’s pre-election campaign which has apparently proven itself invulnerable to Democratic charges of collusion.

At this viewing, we’re not yet convinced that federal prosecutors shouldn’t let Butina spend some time at the gun range, though we can see where they just might be worried about that. Russian operatives – or those from other countries – don’t make a habit of boldly exposing themselves to American Intel Services.  They work as a blend of the local citizenry and avoid anything that makes them look like spies. Butina boasted about her friends in the NRA, visited high profile gun gatherings like the NRA Annual Meetings and similar events like the SHOT Show.

Further, federal investigators took note that a former Russian Federation official, Alexander Torshin, had become a life member of the NRA as the result of his paying  $1000 for the privilege. Torshin, in 2009, had visited with former Alaska governor Sarah Palin who famously said during the 2008 presidential election campaign for which she ran as John McCain’s VP candidate, that she could see Russia from her front porch. Collusion?  What collusion?

Apparently, Torshin had registered as a foreign agent but Butina had not and that – along with her interest in guns and the NRA- gave federal prosecutors all the motive they needed to tab her as a potential jailbird.

Overzealous federal prosecutors may have their reasons for indicting Butina. We just aren’t convinced that she’s working her way up to the pro-gun presidential level.

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