Image via kellepics/Pixabay
Yesterday, in what can only be described as the most serendipitous of happenings — as President Trump was literally with Vladimir Putin when it happened — the Department of Justice announced the indictment of a US-based Russian national affiliated with a Russian “gun rights” organization for operating as an undeclared agent of the Russian government. The Russian national, 29-year-old Maria Butina, tried to make political contacts within the United States:
Butina is accused of trying to cultivate relationships with American politicians to establish “back channel” lines of communication and seeking to infiltrate U.S. political groups, including an unnamed “gun rights organization,” to advance Russia’s agenda. Descriptions in court papers match published reports about Butina’s interactions with the NRA.
The case, which is not part of the special counsel investigation into Russian interference, lays out the strongest allegations to date of American involvement in Russia’s influence operations.
Butina was allegedly assisted in her efforts by a U.S. political operative who helped introduce her to influential political figures. That person was not charged and is not named in court papers, but the description matches that of Paul Erickson, a GOP consultant who sought to organize a meeting between then-candidate Donald Trump and Alexander Torshin, Butina’s Russian colleague and a former Russian senator, at a May 2016 NRA convention.
Naturally, a search began for contacts between Butina and notable Republicans and conservatives.
Rick Santorum with Mariia Butina
Us charges Russian National for being a foreign agent. pic.twitter.com/oE3WYHuONQ
— Debbie Owens (@Dowens8490) July 17, 2018
— Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) July 16, 2018
Then the motherlode was hit by someone called Emily Singer who is a “senior political reporter” for something called Mic.com.
Tweet by Emily Singer screenshotted
What made this such catnip for some members of the press is that this meeting May 10 meeting between Trump and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov which was off limits to US media. The image is by TASS.
As it turned out, the truth was a lot less exciting.
There is a rumor circulating that Maria Butina, the Russian spy arrested in the US yesterday, was included in a meeting in an Oval Office in May 2017.
The person is Cari Lutkins, who runs visits/protocol at @WHNSC.
— Graham Brookie (@GrahamBrookie) July 17, 2018
But, of course, all gingers look alike, in addition to having no souls (or so my kids tell me), so the mistake was completely understandable.
Too bad no one in the press cared this much when undeclared lobbyists for Iran and members of the Muslim Brotherhood were in the Oval Office.