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Re: Maria Butina

PostPosted: Fri Dec 14, 2018 11:48 am
by seemslikeadream
‘US Person 2’ in the case of alleged Russian agent Maria Butina is George O’Neill — his daughter interned for Dana Rohrabacher and helped with an anti-Magnitsky event

New research reveals another link between alleged Russian agent Maria Butina and Pro-Russia congressman Dana Rohrabacher.

Wendy Siegelman

Photo left courtesy Maria Butina’s Facebook page and Photo right courtesty Gage Skidmore via flickr
Note: on some mobile devices source links within story do not display correctly, please view article on regular computer to see all source links.
Several recent bombshells in the Trump-Russia investigation provide mounting evidence of Russian collusion with US citizens and with members of Trump’s inner circle before and after the 2016 election.
On July 15 Russian national Maria Butina was arrested by the FBI and charged with conspiracy and acting as a foreign agent working at the direction of the Russian government with US persons. Charges include conspiracy to infiltrate organizations active in US politics in an effort to advance the interests of the Russian Federation. News reports have described how Butina was directed by Alexander Torshin, a former politician with close ties to the Kremlin, as she set up joint businesses with Paul Erickson and infiltrated the NRA.
Additional reporting has revealed that Maria Butina met several times with Saul Anuzis, an NRA committee member who set up a super PAC for Robert Mercer and whose son, Matas Anuzis, worked at Cambridge Analytica. Senator Dianne Feinstein sent a letter to Cambridge Analytica in October 2017 requesting communications with several people including Maria Butina, indicating that Butina may have a connection to the scandal-ridden data company.
On the heels of the Maria Butina story, this week news broke that Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen attended a meeting with several people where Donald Trump approved in advance a June 2016 meeting attended by Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, with Russians who promised dirt on Hillary Clinton. Trump father and son have both denied that Donald Trump knew about the meeting beforehand.
One person who connects to Maria Butina and to the Russians, Natalia Veselnitskaya and Rinat Akhmetshin, who attended the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, is Pro-Russia congressman Dana Rohrabacher. He met Maria Butina several times and he has worked with Veselnitskaya and Akhmetshin to help advance their anti-Magnitsky agenda.
New research reveals that George O’Neill Jr. — ‘US Person 2’ in Maria Butina’s court documents who helped her bring together Russians with politically active GOP leaders — is the father of Catharine O’Neill, who interned for Dana Rohrabacher, helped promote an anti-Magnitsky event and was part of the Trump transition State Department team.
George O’Neill and his daughter Catharine provide a new link between the Kremlin-backed work of alleged Russian agent Maria Butina and the Kremlin-supported anti-Magnitsky efforts of Dana Rohrabacher with Natalia Veselnitskaya and Rinat Akhmetshin who attended the meeting in Trump Tower that may have been approved in advance by Donald Trump.
Maria Butina and ‘US Person 2’ George O’Neill
George O’Neill Jr., an heir of the Rockefeller family, has been identified by the Washington Post as ‘US Person 2’ in the Maria Butina case. In February 2017, George O’Neill, who is an outspoken supporter of Russia, hosted a dinner for several Russian officials and US lawmakers before the annual National Prayer breakfast. Ahead of the dinner Butina communicated to O’Neill that:
“a representative of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s administration had approved ‘building this communications channel.’”
A Time Magazine report on the February 2017 dinner hosted by O’Neill and attended by Maria Butina, Alexander Torshin, Paul Erickson, Dana Rohrabacher and others, described it as an example of how Moscow was cozying up to the Republican right.
George O’Neill Jr.
According to court documents, in addition to organizing the dinner George O’Neill was included on emails with Maria Butina and Paul Erickson. From 2016 to 2017 O’Neill was included in communications regarding Butina’s efforts to arrange a series of dinners in DC and New York City with US persons influential in politics. At one point Butina told O’Neill that Alexander Torshin was “very much impressed by you and expresses his great appreciation for what you are doing to restore relations between the two countries. He also wants you to know that Russians will support the efforts from our side.”
George O’Neill Jr. has suddenly emerged in the spotlight as a key player in the efforts of alleged Russian agent Maria Butina to infiltrate the NRA and other important GOP groups to promote Russia’s interests. It should be noted that George O’Neill has not been accused of any wrongdoing. However, as he was helping an alleged Russian agent grow her network, his daughter was interning for Dana Rohrabacher, arguably the most pro-Russia member of congress, who was actively supporting the Kremlin’s goal of undermining the Magnitsky Act.
Maria Butina and Dana Rohrabacher
In addition to the February 2017 dinner, hosted by George O’Neill Jr., that Dana Rohrabacher attended along with Maria Butina, Rohrabacher had also met Butina two years prior when she arranged a meeting in St. Petersburg for Rohrabacher and her mentor, Alexander Torshin.
Despite the prior meeting in St. Petersburg, according to an ABC story published this past week, Rohrabacher said he did not remember speaking with Butina at the February 2017 dinner:
“‘Her job was arranging chairs at a dinner, a gopher, and I sat at the opposite end of the table,’ Rohrabacher said.”
This description of Butina as a gopher arranging chairs is the exact opposite of the goal Butina described in court documents of being presented in a senior role to maximize her opportunity to meet important US leaders. In one communication to a Russian official Butina described the “need to see me not as the delegation ‘organization committee’ but as your partner and colleague” and with “status as a key figure.”
It seems incredulous that Rohrabacher who has worked so hard to further the interests of Russia, would really consider Butina, who had back channel communications with the Kremlin, like a gopher. Rather his comment seems intended to downplay the importance of his interactions with her and about his involvement with other Russians on multiple fronts.
Rohrabacher’s Kremlin backed anti-Magnitsky work
The same month in June 2016 that Natalia Veselnitskaya and Rinat Akhmetshin met with Donald Trump Jr., Kushner and Manafort at Trump Tower, they were also coordinating with Dana Rohrabacher to stage a show trial of anti-Putin campaigner Bill Browder on Capitol Hill.
Nico Hines reported in the Daily Beast that Rohrabacher tried to set up a congressional hearing where Veselnitskaya and another witness would confront Browder with a feature-length pro-Kremlin propaganda movie.
During an April 2016 trip to Moscow the prior year Rohrabacher and his staff director Paul Behrends, received a document from the Prosecutor General’s office that suggested holding a hearing “that would re-examine the sanctions placed on Russia.”
Rohrabacher received a film from the Prosecutor General’s office in Moscow which was run by Yuri Chaika, who was also involved with reviewing the information Natalia Veselnitskaya prepared for the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting. Viktor Grin, the deputy general prosecutor who had been sanctioned by the US under the Magnitsky Act, helped provide Rohrabacher with the film that undermined Bill Browder and the Magnitsky Act.
When Rohrabacher returned to the US, he appeared to fulfill several of the suggestions made by the Prosecutor General’s office. Despite his ardent pro-Russia views Rohrabacher has served as the chair of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats, and he delayed the passage of the Global Magnitsky Act by holding it up in committee. He presented an unsuccessful amendment to remove Magnitsky’s name from the title of the act and referenced points from the document provided by the Russian Prosecutor General’s office.
Rohrabacher then worked with Paul Behrends and Rinat Akhmetshin to organize a committee hearing that included Veselnitskaya as a witness. The hearing was cancelled, but the film that was supposed to be shown there was scheduled instead for a June 13, 2016 screening at the Newseum in Washington DC.
Rohrabacher intern Catharine O’Neill
Natalia Veselnitskaya, who was one of the people promoting the worlwide distribution of the film, received help with the Washington DC screening from Rohrabacher’s office:
“Invitations to attend the movie screening were sent from the subcommittee office by Catharine O’Neill, a Republican intern on Rohrabacher’s committee. Her email promised that the movie would convince viewers that Magnitsky, who was murdered in a Russian prison cell, was no hero.”
However, Rohrabacher’s office would later appear to distance itself from the event. When asked about the invitations, Rohrabacher’s press secretary Ken Grubbs replied to the Daily Beast:
“That invitation was not from our office. O’Neill was an unpaid intern on the committee staff. Paul denies asking her to send the invitations.”
Paul was a reference to staff director Paul Behrends, who had travelled to Moscow with Rohrabacher. It’s not clear why Ken Grubbs denied that Behrends had asked Catharine O’Neill to send out the invitations after all that Rohrabacher had already done to advocate against the Magnitsky Act. And it’s not clear why she would have sent the invitations on her own or who else may have asked her to send them out.
As the staff director, it appears that Paul Behrends was involved with managing Catharine O’Neill’s work. In an interesting coincidence several decades earlier, Paul Behrends managed another intern in Rohrabacher’s office — Erik Prince, who went on to found the private security company Blackwater and later hired Paul Behrends as a lobbyist for Blackwater.
While Catharine O’Neill, who interned in Rohrabacher’s office from June to September 2016, has had none of the notoriety associated with Erik Prince, it has not been previously reported that she is the daughter of George O’Neill, who is US Person 2 in the Maria Butina case, where her father is a key part of one of the most notorious stories in the Trump Russia investigation.
It is important to note that there is no indication that Catharine O’Neill ever met Maria Butina, Natalia Veselnitskaya, Rinat Akhmetshin or any of the Russians that George O’Neill or Dana Rohrabacher had met. There is no public documentation of any interactions between Catherine and her father George regarding any matter related to her internship or work experience or of any kind. And as noted earlier, George O’Neill is not accused of any wrongdoing.
Sixth Generation Rockefeller Catherine O’Neill
According to a posting on LittleSis, a free database maintained by the Public Accountability Initiative which details connections between powerful people and organizations as a research tool for journalists, academics, activists, and watchdogs, Catharine O’Neill is listed as the daughter of George D. O’Neill Jr.

LittleSis profile of Catharine O’Neill
A January 2000 Vanity Fair article called Irreconcilable Rockefellers provides an expose of the marriage and divorce of George O’Neill, the great-grandson of oil baron John D. Rockefeller Jr. and his ex-wife Amy Whittlesey, whose mother was Ronald Reagan’s ambassador to Switzerland. The story describes Amy’s “nightmare of infidelity, perversion, and guns that led to her hospitalization for depression.” Another story in the April 2000 Sun Sentinal referenced George and Amy’s four children, including Catharine who was six and a half at the time.
A 2017 profile of Amy Whittlesey’s mother Ambassador Faith Whittlesey who was President Reagan’s Ambassador to Switzerland mentions Catharine: “My granddaughter Catharine O’Neill worked in the transition where everyone had to be very well dressed because the Trump family set a high standard.”
Catharine O’Neill has had an extremely impressive early career according to her LinkedIn profile. After the internship with Rohrabacher on the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats, she was a member of Trump’s Presidential Transition Team for the State Department from September 2016 to January 2017. In an overlapping period from December 2016 to November 2017 she was a George C. Marshall Fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation. Since January 2017 she has been Staff Assistant and Special Assistant in the US State Department, and is listed in a State Department directory as part of the Office of the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights.
As a political appointee, Catharine O’Neill was required to file a public financial disclosure form which lists two Rockefeller-related assets. The ‘Other Assets and Income’ section includes three items, cash between $50,001-$100,000, Rockefeller Intermediate Tax Exempt National Bonds valued at $50,001-$100,000 and Rockefeller Equity Allocation Fund valued at $50,001-$100,000.
A new link from Butina to Rohrabacher: the O’Neill’s
The arrest of Maria Butina for alleged conspiracy and acting as a foreign agent at the direction of the Russian government and with US persons is one of the most significant events in the Trump-Russia investigation.
The June 2016 Trump Tower meeting where Russians said they would deliver dirt on Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort is a key part of the Mueller investigation.
One of the few people who has ties to both is Dana Rohrabacher. He attended the dinner party hosted by George O’Neill with Maria Butina who said about the dinner that a “representative of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s administration had approved ‘building this communications channel.’”
And in a striking coincidence, or perhaps something more, George O’Neill’s daughter Catharine was an unpaid intern for three months on Rohrabacher’s committee and she helped promote the anti-Magnitsky film that had been provided by Russia’s Prosecutor General’s office. Catherine O’Neill has since become a political appointee in the US State Department. ... 569202cf06

Re: Maria Butina

PostPosted: Fri Dec 14, 2018 11:52 am
by seemslikeadream
Wendy Siegelman

Konstantin Nikolaev a Russian billionaire with US investments backed Maria Butina, according to a person familiar with her Senate testimony - a spokesman said Nikolaev was in contact with Butina as she launched a pro-gun rights group in Russia 2012-2014

Russian billionaire with U.S. investments backed alleged agent Maria Butina, according to a person familiar with her Senate testimony

Rosalind S. Helderman
Maria Butina, the Russian woman charged in federal court last week with acting as an unregistered agent of her government, received financial support from Konstantin Nikolaev, a Russian billionaire with investments in U.S. energy and technology companies, according to a person familiar with testimony she gave Senate investigators.

Butina told the Senate Intelligence Committee in April that Nikolaev provided funding for a gun rights group she represented, according to the person. A spokesman for Nikolaev confirmed that he was in contact with her as she was launching the gun rights group in Russia between 2012 and 2014. He declined to confirm whether Nikolaev gave her financial support.

Nikolaev’s fortune has been built largely through port and railroad investments in Russia. He also sits on the board of American Ethane, a Houston ethane company that was showcased by President Trump at an event in China last year, and is an investor in a Silicon Valley start-up.

Nikolaev has never met Trump, according to his spokesman.

However, Nikolaev’s son Andrey, who is studying in the United States, volunteered in the 2016 campaign in support of Trump’s candidacy, according a person familiar with his activities. Nikolaev was spotted at the Trump International Hotel in Washington during Trump’s inauguration in January 2017, according to two people aware of his presence.

In a court filing last week, prosecutors said Butina’s emails and chat logs are full of references to a billionaire as the “funder” of her activities. They wrote that the billionaire is a “known Russian businessman with deep ties to the Russian Presidential Administration.”

Prosecutors did not identify Butina’s funder by name but said he travels often to the United States and was listed by Forbes this year as having a net worth of $1.2 billion — which is the same as Nikolaev’s current listing.

Butina was ordered held without bond last week after she was charged with conspiring to work as a Russian agent. Prosecutors allege that she sought to meet GOP politicians and infiltrate conservative organizations, including the National Rifle Association, at the direction of a Russian government official, in an attempt to advance the Kremlin’s interests.

According to prosecutors, for two years she traveled back and forth to the United States, often accompanying Russian central banker Alexander Torshin to NRA events and other political meetings. Prosecutors have said her activities were directed by a high-level Russian government official who matches the description of Torshin.

In August 2016, she came to Washington to study full time as a graduate student at American University.

[‘She was like a novelty’: How alleged Russian agent Maria Butina gained access to elite conservative circles]

Butina’s lawyer, Robert Driscoll, has said she is not a Russian agent but rather a student interested in learning about the American political system. The Russian government has proclaimed Butina’s innocence, promoting the hashtag #freeMariaButina on social media. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pressed Butina’s case with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a phone call Saturday, according to a statement by the Russian government.

Driscoll declined to comment on Nikolaev but said that the Russian businessman cited by prosecutors was a financial supporter of the gun rights group Butina founded in Russia, the Right to Bear Arms. She met him in person only twice, he said.

Prosecutors cited Butina’s interactions with the Russian billionaire to argue she should not be allowed out of jail while awaiting trial. They argued that she has “ties to the Russian oligarchy” and knows wealthy men who could be in a position to offer her “safe harbor” if she decided to flee the United States.

Nikolaev last had contact with the Russian activist in 2014, according to his spokesman, who said that at the time, Butina had a “public profile in Russia as a blogger on key domestic issues that were of interest.”

Nikolaev’s connections to the Russian government “cannot be characterized as deep,” his spokesman said.

“Mr. Nikolaev has no connections to the Russian government other than those that are strictly required professionally,” said the spokesman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation.

He declined to offer details about the political volunteer work by Andrey, Nikolaev’s son.

“Like countless other young people studying in the U.S., Andrey volunteered to hand out leaflets just for the experience,” he said.

Andrey Nikolaev did not respond to a request through the spokesman for comment. Trump campaign officials did not respond to requests for comment.

[Guns and religion: How American conservatives grew closer to Putin’s Russia]

Konstantin Nikolaev is a major investor in American Ethane and sits on the company’s board.

The company was spotlighted by Trump during a visit to Beijing in November. During the trip, Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping presided over a ceremony in which U.S. companies publicly signed deals with Chinese partners. One of the 15 deals deal inked at the event was a $26 billion deal for American Ethane to deliver liquid ethane to China.

At the event, Trump and Xi sat on a raised stage and applauded while executives, including American Ethane chief executive John Houghtaling II, came forward to sign trade deals at a table festooned with American and Chinese flags.

The White House declined to comment. Houghtaling declined to comment, except to say that Nikolaev had no role in the China deal or the Beijing ceremony.

Nikolaev has also put money into other U.S. companies. In 2016, he invested in a San Francisco start-up called Grabr, according to a company news release. Grabr operates an online service that allows shoppers to buy unusual products internationally by enlisting the help of ordinary international travelers willing to buy and transport goods for a fee.

Another investor in Grabr, according to the company, is Alexey Repik, a Russian pharmaceutical executive who attended Trump’s inauguration and had access to an array of exclusive events.

Repik said he is a minor investor in Grabr with Nikolaev but that the two are not close. He said he does not know Butina or support pro-gun efforts.

It is unclear if Nikolaev also attended any official inaugural events, but he was seen at Trump’s D.C. hotel, which served as hub of inauguration celebrations. His spokesman declined to comment on what he was doing there.

Also in town for the festivities: Butina, who made an appearance at one of the inaugural balls, according to a person aware of her attendance. Last week, prosecutors submitted as evidence a selfie she snapped in front of the Capitol during the swearing-in ceremony. ... 569202cf06

Re: Maria Butina

PostPosted: Sun Dec 16, 2018 11:14 pm
by seemslikeadream

The Butina 11: Meet the Russians ‘Handpicked’ for Trump Event

Evgenia PismennayaDecember 14, 2018, 5:42 AM EST
A Moscow real-estate executive. Two former staffers in Vladimir Putin’s administration. A Siberian mayor with dreams of cloning woolly mammoths.

To Maria Butina and her minder back home, these were the right Russians for Donald Trump’s Washington.

Maria Butina poses at a shooting range in Moscow in 2012.
Photographer: Pavel Ptitsin/AP Photo
Butina, 30, who now admits she worked as an undeclared Kremlin agent, helped arrange for these and five other Russians chosen by a top official to attend the 2017 National Prayer Breakfast, which was held just two weeks after Trump’s inauguration, according to U.S. prosecutors.

“People in the list are handpicked” by Butina and the official “and are VERY influential in Russia,” she wrote in a November 2016 email cited by prosecutors. “They are coming to establish a back channel of communication.”

The other Russians, most of whose names haven’t previously been disclosed, are identified in documents reviewed by Bloomberg News.

In addition to attending the annual event, where Trump gave the keynote speech to some 3,500 guests, the delegates went to meetings that Butina helped arrange with politically connected Americans -- the culmination of her now-admitted multiyear effort to forge inroads into the U.S. conservative movement, including the National Rifle Association.

Pleading guilty in a Washington courtroom on Thursday, Butina admitted she’d been doing the Kremlin’s work and agreed to cooperate with U.S. national security prosecutors. Now comes the question of whether she’ll reveal more about her contacts in Moscow -- or whether, like others pulled into the greater investigation of election meddling, she may hold back.

Maria Butina and Alexander Torshin in 2012.
Photographer: Pavel Ptitsin/AP Photo
U.S. prosecutors allege that Butina conspired with others who aren’t identified in court filings. Based on descriptions provided, one of them was Paul Erickson, her boyfriend at the time, who helped her make inroads into Republican circles.

Another was Butina’s main contact in Moscow, then-central bank deputy chief Alexander Torshin, who’s been accused by Spain of being a handler for Russian organized crime, which he denies. Torshin said through the central bank’s press service last year that the 2017 prayer breakfast was his 12th.

A month before the gathering in Washington, according to the U.S., the person believed to be Erickson said in an email that the Russian delegation was well curated. In addition to Torshin, he wrote, “the list is populated by key mayors, university presidents and personal advisors to President Putin.”

Donald Trump speaks at the National Prayer Breakfast on Feb. 2, 2017.
Photographer: Win McNamee/Getty Images
“Reaction to the delegation’s presence in America will be relayed DIRECTLY” to the Russian president and foreign minister, he wrote in an email copying Butina, prosecutors said.

The U.S. hasn’t leveled accusations against any of the other Russian attendees, and it’s unclear how many of them Butina and Erickson considered influential. Starting in 2017, Bloomberg News attempted to contact the delegates, interviewing some. Here they are:

The Kremlin Alums

By the time Trump took office, Andrey Kolyadin and Sergei Shakhov had left their jobs in the Kremlin’s domestic politics section to work as advisers in the private sector, though Kolyadin continued to consult the presidential administration on various policy matters.

“I went to the Prayer Breakfast so I could say I saw Trump, which is good PR for anyone who’s involved in politics,” Kolyadin said in an interview last year. “This wasn’t some fringe gathering. The other side has direct access to leadership and so do we.”

Andrey Kolyadin, left, and Rex Tillerson at the Prayer Breakfast in 2017.
Source: Facebook
Though he said he didn’t get a private audience with the new president, he did manage to get close to a Cabinet member -- the newly confirmed secretary of state. “I got to shake Rex Tillerson’s hand,” Kolyadin said. “We sat very close to each other and just smiled.” Tillerson didn’t respond to a request for comment.

In an interview last year, Shakhov said the Russians felt a natural affinity with U.S. conservatives. “They like us there, they respect us,’’ he said. “They share our views – that a man should be a man and a woman a woman. They’re strongly behind family values.’’

The Woolly Mayor

Aisen Nikolaev was the mayor of the Siberian city of Yakutsk, 280 miles below the Arctic Circle, at the time of the Washington visit.

Source: Instagram
He gushed over Trump afterward, saying in an Instagram post that the billionaire-turned-politician “is self-confident, jokes well and works the room easily.” He was later picked by Putin to be acting governor of the entire Yakutsk region, eventually winning election.

One of his aims is to bring the woolly mammoth back to life by cloning one of the scores of frozen carcasses that are peppered in the permafrost throughout Yakutsk.

“We will be able to clone mammoths in our lifetimes,” Nikolaev told a Russian tabloid in September. He didn’t respond to requests for comment for this article.

The Problem Solver

Stanislav Puginsky is part-owner of Egorov, Puginsky, Afanasiev & Partners, one of Russia’s largest law firms. The practice was co-founded by one of Putin’s classmates from his law school days in St. Petersburg.

Source: EPAM
The firm’s website says Puginsky specializes in “complex dispute resolution, government property management, drafting of laws, government relations, corporate governance, bankruptcy of strategic enterprises and other matters of the highest complexity.”

He declined to comment for this article.

The Education Tycoon

Vadim Lobov heads Synergy University, a for-profit institution based in Moscow known for inviting U.S. business and cultural figures to its conferences.

“We have to create lots of avenues for dialogue,” Lobov said at his headquarters on the outskirts of Moscow, a converted factory decorated with a wall-sized Putin portrait in the pop-art style of Andy Warhol.

Synergy, which has 35,000 students across the country, sells T-shirts online with patriotic slogans such as “Crimea Is Ours” and “The Russian Empire -- Reloaded.”

The PR Guy

Igor Pisarsky is a veteran public-relations executive and a professor at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. The chairman and co-owner of the R.I.M. Porter Novelli PR agency in Moscow worked with Butina on her early gun-rights efforts in Russia.

Source: RIM
An architect by education, Pisarsky’s doctoral thesis was titled, “The Use of Public Spaces in Central Moscow,” according to his firm’s website.

He declined to comment on his participation in the event.

The It Girl

Vlasta Guryeva is a Russian-born fashion designer and consultant who was asked to help with translation and logistics for the delegation, according to participants.

She said in her “Girl of the Week” profile in the Russian version of Elle magazine in 2013 that she believes “all thoughts materialize and nothing is impossible.” Elle called her the creative force behind Sophie Goes Round, a lifestyle blog that features a lot of nude photos.

Guryeva lives in New York and goes by the name Vlasta Gary. She posted a photo on Facebook of her invitation to the prayer breakfast last year above the caption, “Make love no [sic] war.”

She didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The Mall Builder

Alexander Karpov is a shareholder in GK Regiony, a major developer of shopping centers controlled by Zelimkhan Mutsoev, a multimillionaire member of Russia’s lower house of parliament.

The Instagram photo that Paris Hilton posted of her and Mutsoev’s two sons at at a company event in Moscow in 2013 got 24,236 likes.

Karpov didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The Mystery Man

Little is publicly known about Alexander Yerkhov beyond several media reports about a 2013 incident in Moscow in which the bodyguards of a man with the same name and general description were recorded roughing up a motorist who failed to yield to his Bentley.

One member of the delegation called Yerkhov a mercurial character who barely said a word the entire trip. Yerkhov couldn’t be reached for comment.

— With assistance by Greg Farrell, and Polly Mosendz ... ssion=true

Re: Maria Butina

PostPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2018 12:09 am
by JackRiddler
It is nearly inevitable that this kind of insinuation that all contacts (political or business) with nationals of a country designated as "enemy" by the U.S. state and corporate media will be deployed against the left and against unwanted immigrant groups.

Re: Maria Butina

PostPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2018 8:24 am
by seemslikeadream
Quite the entourage & accomplishments for someone Russia's leadership never knew existed

When accused Russian spy Maria Butina needed money from oligarch Konstantin Nikolaev, she went to Igor Pisarsky, whose clients include Alfa Bank, Vekselberg's Skolkovo, & Rostec – AND whose charity gave an award to Trump associate, SERGEI MILLIAN.

Torshin is “sort of the [American] conservatives’ favorite Russian

Maria Butina’s Boss Alexander Torshin: The Kremlin’s No-Longer-Secret Weapon

In addition to advocating gun rights, Torshin wanted to strengthen the Russian criminal code to include forced castration for pedophiles and life sentences for drug dealers.

12.15.18 10:15 AM ET
If ever a fox was put in charge of a chicken coup, Russian official Alexander Torshin was it. For years, Spanish police had him under investigation and reportedly intended to arrest him for involvement with the Russian mafia. But in January 2015 he was appointed deputy chairman of the Russian Central Bank, whose functions include fighting corruption and money-laundering.

Of course, that was when Torshin was a Kremlin favorite.

Then, last July, a young Russian woman named Maria Butina was nabbed by the FBI and charged with espionage, and Torshin has been under a cloud, a large black one, ever since. Butina, 30, was working for him.

On Thursday, Butina pleaded guilty in a U.S. federal court to conspiring to act as a clandestine foreign agent in the United States by infiltrating Republican political circles through groups such as the National Rifle Association. Butina (rather like Michael Cohen with Donald Trump) decided to finger Torshin (identified in court documents as "Russian Official”) as the man who gave her orders. And this links the operation directly to the Kremlin.

In fact, the plea agreement spells out the connection: “Butina sought to establish unofficial lines of communication with Americans having power and influence over U.S. politics. Butina sought to use those unofficial lines of communication for the benefit of the Russian Federation, acting through Russian Official.”

Torshin, who was placed on the U.S. sanctions list last April, resigned from his bank post on Nov. 30, ostensibly because he turned 65. But the law allows Russian President Vladimir Putin to extend the tenure of high-level officials, and many Russian observers say that Torshin’s departure was connected to the Butina case.

As Russian political scientist Vladimir Pastukhov said this week: “Torshin has become an inconvenient figure. He now needs to go completely into the shadows. Forever, I am afraid.” In fact, Torshin reportedly stopped showing up at the Russian Bank right after Butina’s arrest in July, first going on a long vacation, and then telling the bank that he was ill.

Butina’s association with Torshin began in 2011 when, as deputy speaker of the Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian parliament, Torshin hired her as his special assistant. In that same year, Butina founded the Russian organization A Right to Bear Arms, and Torshin became a patron of the group. The two began traveling to the U.S., where they developed a relationship with the NRA and began attending their annual meetings. Butina moved to the U.S. on a student visa in August 2016, enrolling as a graduate student at American University.

On Tuesday, after news of Butina’s expected plea agreement broke, Putin dismissed the idea that she had ties with the Russian security services: “I went and asked all the heads of our intelligence services, who is this? No one knows anything about her at all.” But, according to a July 18 memorandum filed by prosecutors in Butina’s case, the FBI found evidence that she was in contact with members of Russia’s security and intelligence services.

John McLaughlin, former deputy director and acting director of the CIA, described Butina as an example of Russian “espionage lite,” operating openly but hiding the direction and support she got from the Russian government.

Steve Hall, a former CIA chief of Russian operations, said Thursday: “It’s my theory that Butina is not actually a staff officer of any Russian intelligence service. She is somebody who has been co-opted by somebody else in the Russian government to do a job.”

That somebody was probably Torshin, who praised Butina in a 2017 message by comparing her favorably with the infamous Russian intelligence agent Anna Chapman, arrested in 2010. Torshin himself has such close ties with the Russian security services that he might be considered one of the siloviki, security and police officials who have gained tremendous power and wealth as cronies of ex-spy, now-president, Putin.

After completing studies in jurisprudence at the All-Union Legal Correspondence Institute in 1978, Torshin worked in what was then the Russian Republic Prosecutor’s Office, an agency that was closely tied to the KGB. Later, as deputy speaker of the Federation Council, Torshin was appointed to the Russian Anti-Terrorism Committee, an elite body of officials from the security and intelligence services headed by the chief of the FSB, now Alexander Bortnikov. (After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the KGB was was replaced by the Russian FSB.)

A member of the pro-Putin United Russia Party, Torshin, who speaks English fluently, has been a staunch advocate for Kremlin interests. (He received the prestigious “Order of Honor” state award in 2008.) While in the Federation Council, Torshin headed the parliamentary commission to investigate the shocking September 2004 terrorist attack in Beslan. Although the commission criticized local law enforcement agencies for their carelessness in responding to the attack, its final report did not find fault with federal authorities, despite strong evidence that they bore much of the blame for more than 300 deaths, many of them children. Torshin announced in December 2006 that “the terrorist attack in Beslan mobilized the resources of the state that helped turn the tide in the fight against terrorism for the better.”

A long-time supporter of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, Torshin advocated sending in Russian troops to quell the Maidan protests in 2013-14, declaring in an interview: “I don’t understand those who call Maidan a peaceful protest, and who call supporters of federalization [rebels in Eastern Ukraine] terrorists and separatists.”

In addition to his relentless advocacy of gun rights for Russians, Torshin has called for strengthening the Russian Criminal Code to include forced castration for pedophiles and life sentences for drug dealers. In 2012, after the members of Pussy Riot were arrested, Torshin wrote: “They fight against us covertly, slyly and systematically, using the latest internet technologies…The Russian Orthodox Church is opposed to the negative processes taking place in society. Therefore, it is not surprising that the church has become the object of a massive attack, the purpose of which is to discredit this most important institution.”

A prolific tweeter with over 30,000 Twitter followers, Torshin can sometimes be indiscreet. Thus, in January 2016, he wrote: “Watching the biathlon relay. And how their surnames translate: the Ukrainian—as Fat, the Slovenian—basically as Fuck! Could hang a sign saying ‘over 18?’ After all, children are watching...”

Given his ultra-conservative views, Torshin was a good choice to run one of the Kremlin’s operations to influence U.S. politics by coopting gun advocates and conservative Trump supporters. People like Don Jr., who reportedly has met Torshin more than once, probably found him appealing. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher told Yahoo News after having dinner with Torshin in February 2017 that Torshin is “sort of the [American] conservatives’ favorite Russian.”

Torshin’s job as state secretary of the Russian Central Bank did not involve policy making, but rather the management of relations with the government and parliament. According to sources within the bank cited by the BBC, Torshin’s colleagues took a dim view of his gun rights campaign and his frequent trips to the U.S., which the bank was never asked to authorize. One source is quoted as saying: “The Central Bank avoids politics, and his activities outside the bank were unpleasant surprises for its leadership.”

Despite this lofty tone, the bank has had its share of scandals. Just last year, a former first deputy chairman of the bank, Minister of Economic Development Alexei Ulyukaev, was convicted of bribery in a dramatic Moscow show trial. And back in 2006, the bank’s first deputy chairman, Andrei Kozlov, who was an advocate of widely resented banking reforms, was gunned down in a Moscow street. But in general the bank is a bastion of discreet, grey-suited financial and banking experts who shy away from publicity.

Although the Kremlin has not commented publicly about the allegations of Torshin’s involvement in the Butina case, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov complained to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about Butina’s detention in July and claimed on Friday that she had been tortured into cooperating with prosecutors.

A blogger for the radio station Ekho Moskvy (Echo of Moscow) drew a contrast Friday between people fighting for their rights in Russia who refuse to submit, and would rather starve in hunger strikes, and Butina, whose confession to save herself from prison humiliated the foreign ministry that had insisted on her innocence: “This whole rotten ruling Russian team thinks and does the same when they have to choose between the message they send to people on TV about patriotism and the Motherland above all, and saving their own skin. Agent Butina, dressed in an orange prison uniform, has set an example.”

Does Butina really have that much to tell U.S. prosecutors? According to the statement of offense attached to her plea agreement: “Butina was aware that Russian Official [Torshin] sometimes acted in consultation with the MFA [Ministry of Foreign Affairs], in addition to his superiors at the Russian Central Bank.”

The statement cites as an example Torshin’s request from Butina for a note explaining why he had to travel to the U.S. to attend the annual NRA meeting in 2016: “Butina knew that Russian Official would share this note with his superiors at the Russian Central Bank and the MFA.” In fact, Torshin’s superiors in his American operations were not the bank, which was completely out of the loop regarding his visits to the U.S., or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but the Kremlin and the security services.

Torshin personifies the system of “informal management” of Russia that emerged after the Soviet collapse and developed further under Putin, degrading legitimate government institutions. As Vladimir Pastukhov explained, Torshin, who rose in the political hierarchy as a fairly typical Communist apparatchik, became a key person in a very complex scheme, which does not fit in any constitutional framework: “Mr. Torshin has become part of this internal mechanism of power that exists somewhere on the border of the special services, crime and bureaucracy.”

Meanwhile as of Friday, Torshin, like Trump, was still tweeting away, now from his native Kamchatka, a remote peninsula in Russia’s Far East, where he purports to be enjoying himself by chowing down on local fish. “Smelt from Kamchatka,” he tweeted (in Russian) along with a photograph. “The most delicious in the world. Caught just now. A kilometer from my native village Mitoga.” And later, “What more can one need? Here is salt, fish, sauce, local and imported vodka.”

Torshin also retweeted, with no comment, a rather colorful photograph of a fox.

Correction: A typographical error in an earlier version of this story has been corrected to place the Beslan incident in 2004 rather than 2002. ... ret-weapon

Re: Maria Butina

PostPosted: Wed Dec 19, 2018 9:20 pm
by seemslikeadream
Brad Heath
DOJ has asked a court to keep a gag order in place in the case of accused Russian agent Mariia Butina, partly in case her "cooperation may lead to any other arrests."




Re: Maria Butina

PostPosted: Thu Dec 20, 2018 8:36 am
by seemslikeadream
Butina’s Boyfriend Admits to Setting up Trump-Russia Backchannel via the NRA
BY MELISSA STUSINSKI December 12, 2018

Maria Butina’s boyfriend was responsible for setting up the Trump-Russia backchannel, using the NRA as a “conduit.”

Paul Erickson, a longtime Republican operative, made the claim during a private communication released in Butina’s plea deal. In the email, Erickson wrote in December 2016 that he helped to set up a “very private line of communication” between Russia and the Trump campaign. And he used the NRA to do it.

Butina, a Russian gun rights activist, was charged with working as a foreign agent earlier this year. She agreed to plead guilty and cooperate with investigators this week. During her plea deal, she admitted to investigators that she and “US Person 1” “agreed and conspired, with a Russian government official to act in the United States under the direction of [a] Russian Official without prior notification to the Attorney General.”

ABC News reports that Erickson is “US Person 1” and the Russian official matches the description of Russian banker and Putin ally Alexander Torshin.

Federal prosecutors notified Erickson that he is now a target in the ongoing Russia investigation. In her plea agreement, Butina also admitted she helped Erickson draft a proposal they called “Description of the Diplomacy Project.” Together, they “laid the groundwork for an unofficial channel of communication with the next U.S. administration.”

Prosecutors have said that Erickson “worked with Butina to arrange introductions to U.S. persons having influence in American politics.” Those people included the NRA and the organizers of the National Prayer Breakfast. ... -nra-17705

Re: Maria Butina

PostPosted: Fri Dec 28, 2018 10:04 am
by seemslikeadream


Maria Butina’s ‘Red Sparrow’ Makeover Revealed on Russian TV


Moscow’s state media would have you believe Maria Butina, a confessed agent of influence, was a self-styled seductress and spy.
Julia Davis
12.27.18 8:26 AM ET

Russia’s state-TV Channel One program, hosted by Andrey Malakhov, has aired a revealing special about Maria Butina, including interviews with her parents, relatives, and friends.

Butina recently pleaded guilty to engaging in a conspiracy against the United States, having sought to establish unofficial lines of communication with Americans who possess political power and influence. She admitted to acting under the direction of a Russian official, Alexander Torshin. She faces a maximum of five years in prison, but is likely to receive zero to six months based on her plea agreement.

Russian state television and government officials appear to be deeply concerned about the information Butina has provided to U.S. authorities. Maria Zakharova, the spokesperson for the Russian foreign ministry, claimed erroneously that Butina is facing 15 years in prison and has been subjected to medieval torture while in U.S. custody.

Discounting Butina’s confession, Zakharova told Russian state television Rossiya-1: “Under these conditions, you can make anyone admit to anything. You will admit that you’re a Japanese spy, a Chinese spy, or a medieval witch that tried to stir up a storm in Washington.”

In point of fact, Russian state media seems to be preparing the public for upcoming revelations of a sexual nature, openly comparing Maria Butina with Anna Chapman, who was arrested along with nine other agents in 2010, all of whom were exchanged for four spies held by Moscow. (Among them was Sergei Skripal, subsequently the object of an alleged Russian assassination attempt.)

The thrust of the Russian coverage seems to be that Butina fancied herself a spy and seductress without actually being one, but her parents’ evasive answers were not much help building that case.

Channel One host Malakhov asked Maria Butina’s father about his daughter’s means of support in America. Valery Butin reluctantly admitted: “She had influential acquaintances who recognized her abilities and were helping her financially.” Butin deflected additional questions about the identities of his daughter’s “influential” supporters, adding: “Someone snitched on her.”

Malakhov followed up with an unconventional theory about Butina’s attempted infiltration of the GOP: “What if her intentions were purely sexual? Couldn’t that be the case? Some people like to sleep with famous athletes and some with politicians. She came there and wanted to meet them, that’s all.”

Maria Butina’s former friends and colleagues provided the Russian state-TV program with photos from her past that revealed a mousy brown mullet and frumpy attire before her redheaded makeover and glamorous photo-sessions with various weapons.

The admitted agent of influence drastically changed her appearance in the run-up to her exploits in the United States, leading to the impression that she was being groomed a little like the protagonist played by Jennifer Lawrence in the film Red Sparrow.

A cursory look into Butina’s room in her parents’ apartment suggests a family of modest means, raising questions about whether anonymous benefactors provided the funding for the seven furniture stores she owned prior to her American travels. Responding to questions about the source of funds for his daughter’s entrepreneurial ventures, Butina’s father said, “She is a skilled organizer.”

Maria Butina’s former colleague at the Public Chamber Council of Altai Krai, Pavel Tulin, said he wasn’t surprised by her arrest. Tulin speculated that prior to her apprehension, Butina may have been recorded bragging about being a super-agent of the Russian intelligence agencies (SVR, GRU/GU or the FSB), whether or not that was truly the case. “Now she’s paying the price for whatever she blabbed about,” he added.

GOP operative Paul Erickson, who was used by Maria Butina as a conduit for her influence operations, reportedly pondered in a handwritten note: “How to respond to FSB offer of employment?”

Valery Butin showed off the high marks his daughter received during her American studies, revealing that some of the courses included International Affairs, International Politics, Cybersecurity, Terrorism, and Espionage.

Influential individuals on both sides of the ocean are rightfully concerned by Butina’s potential revelations about the knowledge she put into practice during her dealings with the GOP, the National Rifle Association, and others.

“We are at war,” sums up Russian MP Andrey Svintsov. He concludes: “We may not be using conventional weapons, but we are using intellectual and info-weapons.”

As one such tool of Russia’s hybrid warfare against the West, Maria Butina still has the potential to cause explosive fallout on both sides of the Atlantic. ... ia=desktop

Re: Maria Butina

PostPosted: Mon Dec 31, 2018 5:20 pm
by seemslikeadream
CIA Vets: Russia’s Arrest of American Is Payback for Butina

Adam Rawnsley, Betsy Woodruff

Russia says it arrested a U.S. citizen spying in their country. But former CIA officers say that, far from a counterintelligence coup, the American’s detention is most likely payback for the U.S. arrest of confessed Russian agent Maria Butina.

In a short statement Monday, Russia’s Tass news agency said authorities arrested American Paul Whelan “in Moscow while on a spy mission” and that he faces a sentence of up to 20 years in prison if convicted. A State Department spokesperson said the department has been “formally notified of the detention” and has requested access to Whelan.

"This wasn't planned yesterday. It was probably planned back after [Butina] was arrested," Dan Hoffman, a former Moscow station chief for the CIA, told The Daily Beast. “They want to deter future U.S. actions against other private citizens."

Butina pleaded guilty last month to conspiring to act as an unregistered agent for Moscow and signed a broad cooperation agreement with the Justice Department. Prosecutors said she tried to build a backchannel between Kremlin officials and Republican operatives during the 2016 presidential campaign. Russian officials have lodged a number of protests with the State Department about the conditions of her detention (she’s spent weeks in solitary confinement), and President Vladimir Putin said his intelligence services had no association with her.

If the Kremlin has detained Whelan as tit-for-tat in response to Butina’s arrest, then they could use her treatment to justify their treatment of Whelan. In September, the DOJ lawyers prosecuting Butina cited the Russian consulates’ interest in her case as reason to keep her in jail before her trial.

“Since the detention hearing in this case, the actions of the Russian Federation and its officials toward the defendant have confirmed her relationship with, and value to, her own government,” they wrote. “To date, the Russian government has conducted six consular visits with the defendant.”

DOJ lawyers also noted that Russia’s foreign minister had spoken twice to Mike Pompeo, the U.S. Secretary of State, about Butina’s case and that the Kremlin had issued more diplomatic notes on her behalf than for other Russians imprisoned in the U.S. Lawyers concluded that her flight risk was “not hypothetical.”

Hoffman said the incident may serve a domestic purpose for the Kremlin.

"Vladimir Putin is delivering a message to his own people: Russia is a besieged fortress, there's espionage everywhere—I'm the only one who can defend us,” Hoffman said.

Indeed, a lawmaker from Russia’s Duma called for authorities to arrest Americans in retaliation.

“We would never leave a real intelligence officer vulnerable to arrest, and give Putin a weapon to trade for someone like Ames, Hanssen or Butina.”

— former CIA officer John Sipher

John Sipher, a former CIA officer who served in Russia, said it’s “highly unlikely that [Whelan] is associated with U.S. intelligence” because of the risks involved. “From my experience we would almost never send someone to Russia without diplomatic immunity. Given the laxity of Russian laws and the aggressiveness of their espionage apparatus, we could not guarantee the safety of someone traveling under unofficial cover.”

Russia’s definition of espionage is “extremely flexible and covers all sorts of things that we would not consider illegal in any way,” Sipher added.

Russia has previously arrested U.S. citizens as leverage against the detention of Russian spies in America. For instance, in 1986 the KGB arrested reporter Nicholas Daniloff in the Soviet Union three days after the FBI arrested of Gennadi Zakharov, an alleged intelligence officer and employee of the Soviet U.N. mission in New York.

Federal agents busted Zakharov after he allegedly handed over money to a Guyanese contact for classified U.S. Air Force documents. Daniloff wrote in a subsequent memoir that he knew immediately after the KGB planted maps marked “Secret” on him via a Russian friend that he would end up a hostage for Zakharov’s release. His thinking was prescient—the Reagan administration arranged a swap for him that shortly thereafter.

Sipher said this is exactly the situation the U.S. would try to avoid.

“We would never leave a real intelligence officer vulnerable to arrest, and give Putin a weapon to trade for someone like Ames, Hanssen or Butina,” he said.

The arrest comes amid an intensifying spy war between Russia and the West following Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 election and its annexation of Crimea in 2014.

The Trump administration has sanctioned a number of personnel from Russia’s Main Intelligence Department (GRU) and Federal Security Service (FSB) for spreading disinformation during the 2016 election, hacking Democratic emails, and launching cyber attacks. After Russian GRU officers allegedly tried to assassinate a defector in England with a nerve agent , at least 20 Western countries expelled Russian diplomats in solidarity with the United Kingdom.

Russia responded by booting 60 American diplomats and closing down a U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg. ... terans-say

Re: Maria Butina

PostPosted: Mon Jan 14, 2019 12:10 am
by seemslikeadream

Kremlin Blessed Russia’s NRA Operation, U.S. Intel Report Says

When Maria Butina and Alexander Torshin’s brought NRA bigwigs to Moscow, it wasn’t a rogue mission. It was okayed from the very top, according to a report reviewed by The Beast.
Betsy Woodruff
01.13.19 9:07 PM ET
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast
The Kremlin has long denied that it had anything to do with the infiltration of the NRA and the broader American conservative movement. A U.S. intelligence report reviewed by The Daily Beast tells a different story.

Alexander Torshin, the Russian central bank official who spent years aggressively courting NRA leaders, briefed the Kremlin on his efforts and recommended they participate, according to the report. Its existence and contents have not previously been reported.

While there has been speculation that Torshin and his protege, Maria Butina, had the Kremlin’s blessing to woo the NRA—and federal prosecutors have vaguely asserted that she acted “on behalf of the Russian federation”—no one in the White House or the U.S. intelligence community has publicly stated as much. Senior Russian government officials, for their part, have strenuously distanced themselves from Butina’s courtship of the NRA, which she did at Torshin’s direction.

The report, on the other hand, notes that the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs was fine with Torshin’s courtship of the NRA because the relationships would be valuable if a Republican won the White House in 2016.

Russia-NRA Arrest: This Is as Close as It Gets to Collusion

Betsy Woodruff

“This reporting indicates that Alexander Torshin was working with the blessing of the Kremlin, at a minimum,” one European intelligence official told The Daily Beast. The official added that this reporting is consistent with his group’s understanding of how the Kremlin operates

“The NRA is quite powerful, so when you look to influence U.S. politics, you should consider them as a convenient target,” the official added.

The report, published last year, is based on conversations that happened in 2015, before NRA leaders visited Moscow on a trip arranged by Torshin and Butina. The document does not specifically name the NRA or the Republican Party, but its context makes clear it is discussing those two American organizations. (American intelligence reports generally do not name U.S. persons or organizations for privacy and legal reasons.)

According to the report, Torshin suggested that Russian officials use the NRA to reach out to politically active Americans. Torshin, then a deputy governor at Russia’s central bank, noted the gun rights group’s influence in U.S. politics. He told the Kremlin about his contacts in the NRA, including conversations and meetings in the United States, and suggested that Kremlin officials scrutinize how some people affiliated with the group viewed relations between the U.S. and Russia.

The report notes that Russian officials discussed having their embassy in Washington participate in the work of courting the NRA. Kremlin officials also discussed preparations for NRA members’ upcoming trip to Moscow. Torshin recommended that someone from President Vladimir Putin’s executive office, meaning the group of people who support his day-to-day activities, meet with the group.

“My assessment of what was happening with Torshin and Butina and the NRA was that the Russians decided, a good period of time before 2016, to run an influence operation here in the U.S. with a couple of different goals,” said Steve Hall, who spent 30 years in the CIA and oversaw its Russia operations. “The obvious goal was the one the intelligence community assessed back in 2016, which was to help Donald Trump win and increase the likelihood that Hillary Clinton would lose. In addition, they wanted to create as much chaos in our democracy as possible.”

Spokespersons for the CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment for this story. A lawyer for Butina declined to comment as well.

Kremlin officials at the highest levels have tried to distance themselves from Torshin’s outreach to the NRA. Last month, Putin denied that he or his security chiefs were aware of the undertaking.

“I asked all the heads of our intelligence services what is going on,” he said, regarding Butina. “Nobody knows anything about her.”

And in April of 2017, Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s longtime spokesperson, said nobody in the Kremlin knew anything about the broader courtship of American conservatives by prominent Russians.

“We know nothing about that,” Peskov told The Washington Post.

Torshin and the Kremlin did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

Torshin spent years building relationships with the NRA, as The Daily Beast previously detailed. A Tennessee lawyer named G. Kline Preston, who practices law in the U.S. and Russia, has said he introduced Torshin to David Keene, who helmed the NRA for a time and remained deeply active in its work after ending his time running it. Thanks to Keene, Torshin built connections throughout the gun rights movement and among prominent American conservatives. Torshin also dispatched Butina, a Siberian gun rights activist, to work in the U.S. maintaining those relationships and developing new ones. Butina struck up a romance with Paul Erickson, also an influential member of the American gun rights movement, and with his help built more elaborate plans for winning allies in the NRA.

“My assessment of what was happening with Torshin and Butina and the NRA was that the Russians decided, a good period of time before 2016, to run an influence operation here in the U.S.”
— CIA veteran Steve Hall
Before moving to the U.S., she helmed a Russian gun rights organization called The Right to Bear Arms. Oligarch Konstantin Nikolaev, with the help of P.R. operator Igor Pisarsky, helped fund the group.

In December of 2015, she and Torshin helped arrange for a group of influential NRA members to travel to the Kremlin, where they had high-level meetings—including with the country’s powerful Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergei Lavrov; and sanctioned Putin deputy Dmitry Rogozin, an ultra-right politician who oversaw the country’s defense industry. A schedule of the 2015 trip which The Daily Beast reviewed showed attendees also planned to drive to the Presidential Administration Office on Dec. 9, 2015, for a meeting with Evgeny Lukyanov, then the Deputy Secretary of the Security Council. NRA trip participants did not respond to queries about whether the scheduled meeting with Lukyanov took place. When the trip made national news after the U.S. intelligence community publicly asserted that the Kremlin had tried to help Donald Trump win the 2016 campaign, Keene said it wasn’t about politics.

“Rogozin is chairman of the Russian Shooting Federation and his Board hosted a tour of Federation HQ for us while we were there,” he told The Daily Beast. “It was non-political. There were at least 30 in attendance and our interaction consisted of thanking him and his Board for the tour.”

Torshin and Butina’s outreach to the NRA ended unhappily for both of them. The United States placed Torshin under sanctions, and he recently left his post at the central bank. Butina, meanwhile, pleaded guilty last month to conspiring to act as a covert foreign agent. She is in jail awaiting sentencing, and agreed to cooperate with American prosecutors on their investigations.

The Senate intelligence committee is also probing Russian efforts to court the NRA. Sen. Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, is investigating the NRA’s Russia ties as well.

What’s the Truth About the NRA’s Man in Moscow?

Anna Nemtsova

One veteran CIA officer noted that references to the Kremlin in intelligence reports have a more specific meaning than in general parlance, where Americans sometimes use the phrase as a metonym for the entire Russian government.

“In U.S. intelligence reports like this one, the phrase ‘the Kremlin’ generally refers to Vladimir Putin and his small inner circle, which would include key power ministers, including the heads of the intelligence services (SVR, FSB, GRU), the foreign minister, and oligarch cronies,” said a 30-year veteran of the CIA with deep knowledge of the Russian intelligence services who spoke anonymously due to the sensitivity around issues related to Russia. “In this case, Kremlin decision-making would have likely been a smaller, even more limited, group.”

International affairs professor Nina Khrushcheva of the New School, meanwhile, told The Daily Beast that the American intelligence officers who produced the report described in this piece may have overstated the Kremlin’s organization and efficiency.

“I’m sure there’s truth to the report,” she said, “but that kind of incredible consistency and logic that Americans have in their report about what and how Russia is doing is just culturally wrong.”

“Russia is a chaotic country that makes it up as it goes along,” she added. ... eport-says

Re: Maria Butina

PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2019 7:22 am
by seemslikeadream
Paul Erickson, Russian Agent Maria Butina’s Boyfriend, Indicted for Fraud

Paul Erickson, the American political operative and boyfriend of admitted Russian agent Maria Butina, has been indicted by a federal grand jury in South Dakota on charges of wire fraud and money laundering.

The U.S. attorney for the district of South Dakota is handling the prosecution, which is separate from the case that was lodged against Butina in Washington, D.C.

Erickson, 56, was arrested on Tuesday and entered a plea of not guilty at an arraignment, according to the court filings. His attorney, Clint Sargent, said in a statement: “Mr. Erickson is anxious to let the criminal justice process play out and believes a story different from the Government’s will emerge.”

The indictment alleges that Erickson ran a criminal scheme from 1996 to 2018 using a chain of assisted living homes called Compass Care. Erickson also allegedly defrauded investors through a company called Investing with Dignity that claimed to be “in the business of developing a wheelchair that allowed people to go to the bathroom without being lifted out of the wheelchair.” The indictment says he also ran a fraudulent scheme that claimed to be building homes in the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota.

His arrest comes after several months of investigation by federal and state law enforcement officials, according to court documents and individuals with direct knowledge of the probe. Two individuals who spoke to The Daily Beast over the last five months said they were contacted by FBI agents about Erickson and his businesses.

Gary Byler, an attorney in Virginia Beach, spoke with his longtime friend Erickson throughout those investigations, telling The Daily Beast in October that Paul was “a great American” and “knew what was coming down the pipeline”.

“I actually texted him yesterday and told him not to quit his day job,” Byler said. “He texted back: ‘I don’t have a day job.’”

“Power is an aphrodisiac in politics. Paul always attracted people around him,” Byler said in a recent interview. “He is great fun to be about.”

Erickson, a well-known conservative operative who shuttled between D.C. and South Dakota, struck up a relationship with Butina, 29, in 2013. As The Daily Beast has reported, he dressed up as Rasputin to her flame-haired Empress Alexandra at a 2016 birthday party where vodka flowed through an ice sculpture of a bottle imprinted with the Soviet hammer and sickle.

The couple, who lived together in South Dakota, had some kind of business together. They were listed as the sole officers of Bridges LLC, a company registered in the state in February 2016, though it’s unclear what it did or how it operated.

Butina, an avid activist for gun rights in Russia, attended American University in the U.S. and worked closely with Russian central bank official Alexander Torshin to influence American politics, according to court records.

Throughout the Butina court documents, federal investigators mention a “U.S. Person 1”—an individual Butina worked with, dated and used to make connections with “an extensive network” of right-wing political figures. That person, who documents say is closely tied to the National Rifle Association, is was largely believed to be Erickson.

Butina pleaded guilty in December to a conspiracy charge as part of a cooperation agreement with federal prosecutors and is likely to be deported. She is not mentioned in the South Dakota indictment.

Even before he was charged, Erickson was dogged by allegations of financial shadiness. As first reported by The Daily Beast in July, individuals who have sued Erickson alleged in court documents that he and his companies failed to pay back loans. Some say he duped them into investing into what appeared to be nonexistent companies. Others allege Erickson used their money for personal expenses. Erickson has been sued in California, Virginia and South Dakota.

Michael Barnes, an entertainment attorney in Los Angeles, filed a suit in 2014, claiming Erickson through Compass Care persuaded him to invest $50,000 in a real-estate project in the Bakken oil fields. The lawsuit says Erickson failed to repay Barnes by the promised due date. A California court ruled Erickson committed fraud against Barnes and ordered him to pay about $350,000 in compensation.

In that deal, Erickson solicited investments from attendees at conservative political events by laying out terms that promised high returns, according to three people with knowledge of the deal and court records reviewed by The Daily Beast. Erickson, who represented himself as a real estate developer, planned to use his company in North Dakota to set up a transaction in the Bakken region, the sources said. But Erickson doesn’t appear to have planned on carrying out the deal, according to a 2015 judgement by a California court. And the company he represented doesn’t appear to have ever existed, according to a review of public records by The Daily Beast.

In an email in November of 2013 to a potential investor for the Bakken deal, Erickson asked for funding for what he called his “new real estate development venture” in North Dakota.

“I’m extremely proud of the work of our development team as together we find new ways to service the office and housing needs of this new American gold rush,” Erickson wrote. In the email, Erickson called his new business the “Bakken oil fields” and said it was set up to capitalize on the boom in North Dakota.

“Due to your interest in my work and in consideration of past kindness, I would welcome your investment of any amount you choose (up to $100,000),” the email said.

Erickson noted in the email that any investment would be governed by two conditions. One, that returns would be repaid by February 18, 2014 and two, that he would repay the full amount of investments if the deal did not materialize. Erickson garnered at least $50,000 from the email exchange and did not pay any of it back, according to the judge’s decision on the case.

Two individuals familiar with the deal said he told investors he owned several parcels of land near Williston, North Dakota and would set up a transaction between two of his companies. In a complaint filed in a lawsuit in 2015, one of the investors alleges Erickson planned to use a company he controlled to sell undeveloped North Dakota land it owned to a second company Erickson controlled.

“Such a transfer would result in profits for Defendant, as owner of the first seller company, on account of a secured lender giving a higher valuation to the land, on account of various entitlements acquisitions which were part of the Transaction,” according to the complaint.

One of the companies he represented while soliciting investments was Northern Plains Holdings, LLC, according to investors and people familiar with the deal. The North Dakota secretary of state’s office told The Daily Beast it did not have a record of such a company connected to Erickson. It’s unclear what other company Erickson planned to use. The Daily Beast also checked property ownership data for North Dakota and could not find evidence Erickson ever owned land in Williston.

In another case, conservative media activist L. Brent Bozell III, founder of the Media Research Center, also sued Erickson’s Compass Care Inc. in Virginia in 2007. Bozell, who invested $200,000 in Compass Care, alleges that Erickson failed to pay him back. At one point Erickson wrote Bozell a check to repay him for his investment. The bank rejected it, claiming insufficient funds, according to court documents.

At one point, Erickson asked individuals to invest in a company that promised returns for what he claimed was a high-tech patent for a wheelchair. In court documents, Erickson admits to owing several of those who invested. Byler, who is listed as Erickson’s lawyer on several of his companies’ registration documents, said he was involved with the wheelchair patent deal and made “a little capital.”

About $89K passed between GOP operative Paul Erickson’s bank accounts & one held by Russian agent Maria Butina at Alfa Bank, the sanctioned Russian bank whose servers communicated with Trump Towers during the election.

Here Is The Money Trail From The Russian
Federal investigators say some of the money went to Maria Butina’s campaign to help Russia infiltrate American politics. ... ney-russia

Maria Butina's 1st known financial transaction with Erickson were a pair of Dec 2014 wires from her account at Russian mafia-linked Alfa Bank, whose co founder is the father in law of Alex van der Zwaan [convicted by Mueller for lying to the FBI].

Alfa Alfa Alfa
Recall: Brian Benczkowski, the newly confirmed DOJ Criminal Div Chief, began representing Russia's Alfa Bank 2 months after leaving Trump's transition team & did so until the day Trump nominated him to head DOJ's criminal division.

Jason Leopold

One example in the Paul Erickson indictment and what @a_cormier_ & I reported exclusively last year about how Wells Fargo flagged his financial transactions as suspicious and sent to FBI. ... ssion=true


Another example in the Erickson indictment and what @a_cormier_ & I reported exclusively last year: American University. Bank officials, as we reported, found these payments suspicious.

Image ... ssion=true ... 1111060481

Re: Maria Butina

PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2019 9:33 pm
by seemslikeadream
Foreign lobbyists a chance to “pay to play”

Journalist and author Jeff Sharlet on the National Prayer Breakfast, Maria Butina, and the group that calls itself “the Family.”
By Tara Isabella Updated Jul 30, 2018, 12:45pm EDT

Jeff Sharlet, journalist and author. Eli Burakian/Dartmouth College
The New York Times broke a story last week about the degree to which the National Prayer Breakfast has become a “pay to play” event. At the gathering, foreign dignitaries and lobbyists pay thousands of dollars for access to the event itself and — perhaps more importantly — the week of meetings and events surrounding the breakfast. According to the Times’ Kenneth P. Vogel and Elizabeth Dias, “the annual event has become an international influence-peddling bazaar, where foreign dignitaries, religious leaders, diplomats and lobbyists jockey for access to the highest reaches of American power.”

For example, they report, ambassador-turned-lobbyist Herman J. Cohen offered tickets to Chad’s President Idriss Déby, billing the event as “a special occasion to get to know and converse directly with the President of the U.S.” The price? $220,000.

Among the most prominent recent guests at the event was Maria Butina, a Russian graduate student at American University and gun rights activist, who was more recently accused of “acting as an agent for a foreign government.”

At the 2016 and 2017 breakfasts, Butina allegedly met with unnamed American officials and “very influential” Russians, and seems to have successfully attempted to broker meetings between figures in these groups.

As evidenced by the Times report, something more insidious than prayer has been understood to be taking place at the breakfast, says Jeffrey Sharlet, an associate professor of literary journalism at Dartmouth College.

In his 2009 book, The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, Sharlet chronicled the influence of a Christian organization known publicly as “the Fellowship” (and internally as “the Family”), the founders and administrators of the National Prayer Breakfast. The Family — of which Sharlet reports Vice President Mike Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions are members — is an intensely powerful organization, whose specific vision of Jesus as the ideal “strongman” governs their political theology and who have found, in strongman-sympathetic President Trump, an ideal vessel for their beliefs.

“What’s interesting about Trump is that he’s not really a believer, yet he’s put together the most fundamentalist Cabinet in US history,” Sharlet told me Wednesday. “There has never been one like this. It’s the most Family-friendly.”

Sharlet says the Family often uses the National Prayer Breakfast, and the events surrounding it, as a backdoor recruiting and diplomacy tool for between lobbyists and foreign governments that organizers feel share its “strongman” approach, without formal government oversight.

I spoke with Sharlet by phone about the Family, the National Prayer Breakfast, and why an alleged Russian agent like Butina might in fact be welcome there. The interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

Tara Isabella Burton
So who exactly are “the Family”? Let’s start there.

Jeffrey Sharlet
It is [technically] called the Fellowship, referring to itself internally as the Family. It is the oldest and arguably most influential Christian conservative organization in Washington. And the reason some people may not have heard about it is because it’s also the most secretive.

They believe they are most effective if they don’t seek publicity, and they minister to those who may consider what they call it, the “up and out” or “key men” in positions of influence, if they minister to them privately beyond the public eye. So unlike the traditional Christian right that really wants to be on TV, getting attention, these guys practice what George Bush Sr. praised as a “quiet diplomacy.”

Tara Isabella Burton
And how did this group come into existence? Are they associated with one particular school of Christian thought?

Jeffrey Sharlet
They are nonsectarian, generically evangelical. They began in 1935 when the founder, a man named Abraham Vereide, had what he believed was a vision from God. He was a fairly prominent Christian leader of his time, ministering to business leaders and government figures.

But he felt that God spoke to him and told him that Christianity may have been getting it wrong for 2,000 years, with this focus on the poor and the weak and the down and out, and what God actually wanted was for Abraham — and those whom he chose — to minister to those whom he called the “up and out,” the “key men.”

He had this idea that if you could win a few key figures in positions of power for their idea of Christ, well, then they would reorganize society on that basis and you would have just kind of trickle-down fundamentalism. Always central is Jesus as they understand him, as a figure of strength.

Tara Isabella Burton
How does this connect to the National Prayer Breakfast specifically? The breakfast is often, I think, seen by outsiders as being something kind of innocuous. But there seems to be a more specific connection between the breakfast and this one organization.

Jeffrey Sharlet
The Family is the organizer of the National Prayer Breakfast. The Family created the National Prayer Breakfast as a recruiting device. Back in the ’40s and ’50s when they were planning it, their goal was to normalize this idea of prayer at the center of American political life, so much so that people would just take for granted. They created it in 1953 when Eisenhower agreed to attend. They had tried with FDR and Truman, who both said no.

Eisenhower said no at first as well. But he owed an electoral debt to Billy Graham, who, working with the Family, had helped swing the evangelical vote for Eisenhower. This was back when Southern evangelicals did not vote Republican. So he attended. The idea was, “Look, I’m going, I don’t want any press. I don’t want this to become a tradition.” Suddenly, you have this tradition.

And so every president since has gone. Most of Congress goes. Lots of world leaders go. The Family uses it as the centerpiece — the one public event they do in the year. But it’s only one-tenth of 1 percent of the iceberg [of their work]. As they describe it, it is a recruiting device to bring those whom they are interested in into what they describe as prayer cells, where they meet. And I’m quoting here [from Family documents]: where “you meet Jesus, man to man.” Meanwhile, around the prayer breakfast — which is just one event on the first Thursday of February — is a week-long lobbying festival.

You get the oil industry hosting events. You get defense contractors hosting events. So you look at the list of foreign leaders who are coming again and again from around the world. They’re there for access to American power; they’re there to cut deals.

Michael Cromartie, a longtime conservative religious leader in Washington and no lefty, was critical of their lack of transparency. He says, “Look, I’m sure people use this to gain entrée. And entrée they do get.”

[Another source says] the National Prayer Breakfast is used by the Family to circumvent the State Department. They are arranging meetings with a real who’s who of nasty figures — the kind of government leaders from foreign nations who might not otherwise have access to American power but [who] the Family, in pursuit of their strongman vision of Jesus, thinks are actually anointed by God for leadership.

Tara Isabella Burton
This brings us, then, to Russia, and to Maria Butina. What is her connection to all of this, and why is it so significant?

Jeffrey Sharlet
Well, Maria Butina, according to the affidavit from the Department of Justice, used the Prayer Breakfast twice. Prayer Breakfast organizers met with her in Moscow, and I think they helped her determine the [Russian delegation] guest list. I mean, I think one thing we want to pay attention to is there’s a lot of emphasis on [the idea that] Maria Butina sort of infiltrated the conservative American organization to gain access [for Russian interests]. It’s worth paying attention to the ways in which they helped her. They actively helped her; it’s not like she just showed up. They saw her as access too.

Look at things from the Family’s perspective. It’s exactly the kind of work they do, right? Tensions are strong between the United States and Russia. The family imagines itself as a peacemaker. This vision of peace is a strongman vision. The two strongmen should meet and hammer things out, and then Jesus will be there, shaping [things].

So they’re going to look at Russia and they’re gonna say, “That’s exactly who we want to reach out to,” and they’re going to do that in the context of this longstanding and really growing American Christian right love affair with Putin. They see him as modeling Christian leadership.

So from their perspective, they’re not helping a Russian spy — they’re helping bring peace between two worthy and strong leaders who were chosen by God.

That’s the other thing you have to remember about them. They think if you’re in power, you’re in power because God puts you there, not any kind of voters.

Tara Isabella Burton
Can you tell me more about the Family’s particular conception of Jesus? They certainly have a very particular reading of him.

Jeffrey Sharlet
It’s a wildly unorthodox reading of Jesus. You can’t get much further away from the Jesus most of us understand, whether we’re believers or students of religion, than some of the analogies that they like to use. They frequently compare Jesus to some of the worst strongmen of history. Hitler is a favorite comparison; they also compare him to Mao, to Pol Pot.

The point they are trying to make is not that Jesus is a fascist or communist but that Jesus is strong. Jesus is a strongman. And what he offers is a covenant that they describe as “Jesus plus nothing.” Another phrase they’ve used in the past is “totalitarianism for Christ.”

It’s worth emphasizing that most Christian fundamentalists don’t embrace this either. Most Christian fundamentalists believe that Jesus came for “the sheep.”

But the longtime organizer at the National Prayer Breakfast [Doug Coe] said, “Nope. Jesus was there for the wolves.” He said, now, you could go and you could minister to the sheep, but that takes forever. What if you went to the wolves? And not just the wolves but the leader of the pack. A few years ago, in fact, an evangelical writer named Lance Wallnau used that parable as the case for Donald Trump.

Most Rapture believers [and most evangelicals] are premillennial. They believe there’s going to be the sort of apocalyptic moment and then Christ is going to come and rule for a thousand years. The Family fits into a different point of view, called postmillenialism. And this is this idea that Christ isn’t coming back until we establish a world Christian order for a thousand years. The Family uses it to pursue what they describe as the long-term goal of 200 world leaders, united quietly through the Family and their devotion to Jesus as the Family understands him. ... the-family

Re: Maria Butina

PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2019 10:29 pm
by seemslikeadream

Her boyfriend has been indicted for fraud; Person 2 in her indictment, George O'Neill, names as pro-Kremlin collaborators Consortium News & Gilbert Doctorow and Stephen F. Cohen of the Nation & ACEWA and 9/11 truther Ray McGovern


Rockefeller heir George O’Neill is Russia agent Maria Butina's ‘U.S. Person 2 & Rohrabacher's in this, too: Reports
7 months ago

The U.S. indictment for accused Russian secret foreign agent Maria Butina refers to one of her American contacts as “U.S. Person 2.” Like others having serious legal troubles this week, they shared a love for the NRA.

We now know “U.S. Person 2” is George O’Neill Jr., an heir to the Rockefeller fortune and a conservative opinion writer, from a report today in the WSJ. O'Neill is believed to have helped build a secret line of communication between the U.S. right wing behind Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, and the Russian government under President Vladimir Putin.

The U.S. charges against Butina discuss “friendship dinners” she organized to bring together Russians with politically active Americans who'd be receptive to their money and ideology.

One of those Americans, government prosecutors now say, hosted such a dinner in February 2017 before that year’s National Prayer Breakfast.

From Aruna Viswanatha and Julie Bykowicz at the Wall Street Journal:

Mr. O’Neill, an heir to the Rockefeller fortune and an outspoken advocate of closer ties with Russia, hosted that event, as he confirmed in a magazine column. The charging documents say Ms. Butina told him that a representative of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s administration had approved “building this communications channel.”

Mr. O’Neill, who hasn’t been accused of wrongdoing, didn’t respond to emails and phone messages. In the charging papers, he isn’t described by name but is called “U.S. Person 2.”

“All that we needed is > from Putin’s side. The rest is easier,” Ms. Butina told Mr. O’Neill, according to the court documents, in an apparent effort to relay approval from the Russian government of a U.S-Russian back channel through events like the dinner.

Mr. O’Neill’s involvement helps broaden the picture of Ms. Butina’s efforts in the U.S. She also collaborated with Paul Erickson, a South Dakota-based conservative with a history of debt and fraud cases who is referenced as “U.S. Person 1” in the charges filed against Ms. Butina, The Wall Street Journal reported previously.

Mr. O’Neill and Mr. Erickson were on some of the same emails with Ms. Butina, court papers show. Mr. Erickson didn’t respond to emails and phone messages.

In a column in advance of President Donald Trump’s meeting with Mr. Putin earlier this month, Mr. O’Neill argued that Russia could be a “constructive partner” in working with the U.S. to “stop its wasteful wars.” He founded a group to lobby for a “realistic and restrained foreign policy,” and organized a dinner last year for several Russian officials and Republican lawmakers and others before the Prayer Breakfast.

That dinner, chronicled by Time magazine last year, was a factor in the case against Ms. Butina, who is in jail awaiting trial on charges of being an unregistered foreign agent after her arrest on July 15. In a column last year for the American Conservative, where he is a board member, Mr. O’Neill laid out his involvement in that dinner.

“Some months back I organized a dinner on Capitol Hill that brought together some former and current Russian officials with a number of prominent U.S. Republicans and conservatives, including two congressmen, a conservative magazine publisher, some journalists, and others,” Mr. O’Neill wrote in his April 24, 2017, column.

The American Conservative says they “did not fund or sponsor the dinner.” Butina has pleaded not guilty to the charges, which her lawyer says are “overblown.”

From Bloomberg's story on Butina's connection to 'scion of the Rockefeller clan' George D. O’Neill Jr.:

O’Neill, a 68-year-old sculptor and a rainmaker for conservatives since Pat Buchanan’s 1992 presidential run, hosted a private dinner in Washington, D.C., for a delegation of Russian dignitaries in town for a National Prayer Breakfast in early February 2017, he has said publicly and to Bloomberg last year. There, just days after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, the Russians met two Republican lawmakers and other conservative luminaries, he has said.

The dinner is also referenced in a trip itinerary given to Russian delegates traveling to Washington for the breakfast, which was reviewed by Bloomberg. Delegates also received a Russian-language rundown of the Americans they could expect to meet at the dinner. Among them were O’Neill and his wife, a Russian-speaking congressional aide and a conservative operative they were told was an adviser to the new Trump administration, according to a document reviewed by Bloomberg.

Oh, and guess who else came to dinner? Yep, Dana Rohrabacher.

Dana Rohrabacher is colloquially known here in California as “the Congressman From Moscow.”

At one dinner, ABC News has learned, in February 2017 at the tony French eaterie, Bistro Bis, one guest who dined with the then-28 year old Russian was a California Republican congressman on the House Foreign Relations committee, Dana Rohrabacher. Rohrabacher’s office confirmed he attended.

Some of the Russians at that dinner were part of an active effort to undermine the 2016 presidential elections, U.S. national security prosecutors are effectively saying in the indictment. Whether he knew it or not, O’Neill may have helped Butina achieve her goal of creating a “backchannel” between the Kremlin and GOP, pro-Trump leadership.


On July 17, Maria Butina was indicted on charges of acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign government. Her involvement in a South Dakota fraud case involving Paul Erickson first came to light last week, during a detention hearing in Butina's case.

Butina has “offered to cooperate in a fraud investigation being mounted by federal prosecutors in South Dakota that appears to target Paul Erickson, the conservative activist with whom she was romantically linked, according to a letter released by her lawyer and court testimony in her case.”


She trolled you so hard, America. How hard? She literally walked around DC with this Beautiful Vladimir Putin With A Horse On A Russian Mountaintop Phone Case.

From the Washington Post:

Butina’s cellphone case was emblazoned with a famous photograph of Russian President Vladi­mir Putin riding shirtless on a horse. She would buy friends rounds of vodka at Russia House, the Dupont Circle restaurant popular with the Russian diplomatic set, sometimes challenging male friends to down horseradish-infused shots. She bragged to classmates that she had worked for the Russian government.

Dude. ... ssion=true

Re: Maria Butina

PostPosted: Tue Feb 12, 2019 3:46 pm
by JackRiddler

In a long report the veteran deep state investigative reporter James Bamford, of all people, author of several books on the NSA, concludes that Butina is being unjustly persecuted.

The U.S. government went looking for someone to blame for Russia's interference in the 2016 election—and found Maria Butina, the perfect scapegoat.

February 11, 2019 ... ussian-spy


With anti-Russia fervor in the United States approaching levels directed at Muslims following the attacks of September 11, 2001, it was easy for prosecutors to sell the story of Butina as a spy to the public and the press. But is she really? Last February, Robert Mueller, the special counsel leading the Russia probe, indicted 13 Russian spies for interfering with the 2016 election. And in July, two days before Butina was arrested, Mueller charged twelve more Russians with hacking into email accounts and computer networks belonging to the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. It is not inconceivable that Butina is among their ranks.

Yet a close examination of Butina’s case suggests that it is not so. Butina is simply an idealistic young Russian, born in the last days of the Soviet Union, raised in the new world of capitalism, and hoping to contribute to a better understanding between two countries while pursuing a career in international relations. Fluent in English and interested in expanding gun rights in Russia, she met with Americans in Moscow and on frequent trips to the United States, forging ties with members of the National Rifle Association, important figures within the conservative movement, and aspiring politicians. “I thought it would be a good opportunity to do what I could, as an unpaid private citizen, not a government employee, to help bring our two countries together,” she told me.

The government’s case against Butina is extremely flimsy and appears to have been driven largely by a desire for publicity. In fact, federal prosecutors were forced to retract the most attention-grabbing allegation in the case—that Butina used sex to gain access and influence. That Butina’s prosecution was launched by the National Security Section of the District of Columbia federal prosecutor’s office, led by Gregg Maisel, is telling in itself: According to a source close to the Mueller investigation, the special counsel’s office had declined to pursue the case, even though it would have clearly fit under its mandate.

Despite the lack of evidence against Butina, however, prosecutors—abetted by an uncritical media willing to buy into the idea of a Russian agent infiltrating conservative political circles—were intent on getting a win. In the context of the Mueller investigation, and in the environment that arose after Trump’s election, an idealistic young Russian meeting with influential American political figures sounded enough like a spy to move forward.

Butina told me her story over a number of long lunches starting last March at a private club in downtown Washington, D.C. She was always early, except on April 25, when she didn’t show up.


Re: Maria Butina

PostPosted: Thu Feb 14, 2019 10:00 pm
by seemslikeadream

Erickson’s email, which included logistics for Brownell’s Russia travels, maintained a cheerful tone throughout. It differs sharply from how Erickson and Butina—who started a Russian gun rights group and courted American conservatives—described her interactions with the FSB to journalist James Bamford for the New Republic piece. Those interviews are their only extensive on-record comments about the case since last summer, when Butina was arrested and charged with acting as a covert agent for the Russian government. In December, she pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges stemming from what federal prosecutors described as an effort to “establish unofficial lines of communication with Americans having power and influence over U.S. politics.” Butina is currently in jail awaiting sentencing.

But on the way to securing that guilty plea, the prosecutors targeting Butina have made at least one serious misstep: They had to retract an ugly accusation that she traded sex for access.

Erickson and Butina say the Russian authorities also scrutinized her.

“She was under constant FSB surveillance in Russia,” Erickson told Bamford. “They would go to all the public meetings of her group, and they would go to all the rallies. Sometimes just show up in her offices once a week.”

Butina also described a fraught relationship with the FSB.

“We were watched,” she said, “but unless you crossed the line, no one’s going to go to prison. The question becomes: Do you cross this line? Do you become dangerous to the regime at a certain point? I had a bag packed in my hallway at home in case I’m imprisoned, somebody can bring it to me. That’s my reality.”

It would not be unusual for the FSB to scrutinize Butina’s gun rights group. Putin’s government generally opposes efforts to expand gun rights in Russia, in part due to fear of armed resistance. And it has long telegraphed hostility to civil society organizations. Despite that, the Kremlin green-lit outreach efforts by Butina’s group to the NRA, according to a report by a U.S. intelligence agency which The Daily Beast reviewed.

A source close to Erickson said his email and his statements to Bamford are consistent.


Boyfriend’s Email: Butina ‘Manipulated’ Russian Spy Agency for NRA Trip

According to her boyfriend, Russian agent Maria Butina had major sway with the FSB officers “assigned” to her.
Betsy Woodruff,
Spencer Ackerman
02.14.19 7:51 PM ET
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast
The boyfriend of confessed Russian agent Maria Butina wrote that she “manipulated” a Russian spy agency when arranging NRA bigwigs’ trip to Moscow, The Daily Beast has learned.

Paul Erickson, Butina’s boyfriend, made this claim on Nov. 25, 2015 in an email to a trip participant. The light-hearted, chummy tone of the email, which was subsequently read to The Daily Beast, contrasts significantly with how Erickson characterized Butina’s relationship with the FSB to The New Republic: tense, bordering on hostile.

It also shows that at least one trip attendee was led to believe that Russia’s FSB—whose predecessor was the KGB—helped lay the groundwork for the trip.

Erickson began the email, sent to then-incoming NRA President Pete Brownell, with florid language.

“Dear International Man of Mystery or should we just start calling you “Austin Powers” to your face??” he wrote, with a smiley face.

“Miss Butina has (apparently) moved heaven and earth and manipulated the Russian FSB (the current incarnation of the old KGB) and gotten you cleared for a tour of one (1) Russian arms factory the day before the NRA delegation arrives in Moscow,” he continued. “She found a way to shrink a normally 3-week process into about 3-days (probably because most of the FSB agents ‘assigned’ to her want to marry her).”

Russian Agent Maria Butina’s Boyfriend Indicted for Fraud

Betsy Woodruff,
Erin Banco

John Sipher, a former chief of Russia operations for the CIA, called the email alarming.

“The right thing to do would have been to inform the FBI and cancel the trip,” Sipher said. “Cavorting with those who claim to be at war with you is unpatriotic at best. Mr. Erickson’s actions are especially abhorrent.”

A spokesperson for Brownell, who runs a guns-and-ammo retail business, said he checked with the State Department before traveling to Russia.

“Pete accepted the invitation to join this trip with the understanding that it was an NRA-related event organized with the support of the organization,” the spokesperson said. “He welcomed the opportunity to meet with folks who share his passion for hunting, and to further understand how Brownells can continue to be successful in overseas markets. He had his company’s compliance team review the itinerary with the State Department ahead of time and carefully followed their guidance before, during and after the trip. He has made clear that he stands ready to assist with any bipartisan inquiries.”

Erickson’s email, which included logistics for Brownell’s Russia travels, maintained a cheerful tone throughout. It differs sharply from how Erickson and Butina—who started a Russian gun rights group and courted American conservatives—described her interactions with the FSB to journalist James Bamford for the New Republic piece. Those interviews are their only extensive on-record comments about the case since last summer, when Butina was arrested and charged with acting as a covert agent for the Russian government. In December, she pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges stemming from what federal prosecutors described as an effort to “establish unofficial lines of communication with Americans having power and influence over U.S. politics.” Butina is currently in jail awaiting sentencing.

Russian Agent Maria Butina ‘Very Likely’ To Be Deported

Adam Rawnsley

But on the way to securing that guilty plea, the prosecutors targeting Butina have made at least one serious misstep: They had to retract an ugly accusation that she traded sex for access.

Erickson and Butina say the Russian authorities also scrutinized her.

“She was under constant FSB surveillance in Russia,” Erickson told Bamford. “They would go to all the public meetings of her group, and they would go to all the rallies. Sometimes just show up in her offices once a week.”

Butina also described a fraught relationship with the FSB.

“We were watched,” she said, “but unless you crossed the line, no one’s going to go to prison. The question becomes: Do you cross this line? Do you become dangerous to the regime at a certain point? I had a bag packed in my hallway at home in case I’m imprisoned, somebody can bring it to me. That’s my reality.”

It would not be unusual for the FSB to scrutinize Butina’s gun rights group. Putin’s government generally opposes efforts to expand gun rights in Russia, in part due to fear of armed resistance. And it has long telegraphed hostility to civil society organizations. Despite that, the Kremlin green-lit outreach efforts by Butina’s group to the NRA, according to a report by a U.S. intelligence agency which The Daily Beast reviewed.

A source close to Erickson said his email and his statements to Bamford are consistent.

“To say that FSB agents were ‘assigned’ to Maria Butina is a polite way of saying that she was under constant government surveillance in Russia because of her gun rights activities,” that person said. “Never mistake polite interactions with potential jailers as anything other than a survival technique.”

The email came a few weeks before a host of NRA bigwigs and board members, including Brownell, ventured to Moscow. On the trip, they hobnobbed with Kremlin officials and enjoyed tourist attractions. A copy of the schedule reviewed by The Daily Beast shows they even had a meeting arranged with the Kremlin’s then-national security adviser, who just a few months prior announced an arms sale to Iran. David Keene, a former president of the NRA, helped arrange the trip. According to another Erickson email, he wanted participants to impress their Russian hosts so he could score an interview for his newspaper with Vladimir Putin.

Erickson, an accused fraudster, is not necessarily a reliable narrator. Over his decades in the conservative movement, he developed a reputation for exaggerating his connections to political power-brokers and deceiving acquaintances about his business practices. Last week, a South Dakota grand jury charged him with wire fraud and money laundering. He pleaded not guilty. And last September, the U.S. Attorney for the district of Washington D.C. told Erickson’s lawyer he may face charges for covertly working for a foreign government.

The relationship between the NRA and Russians close to the Kremlin is a subject of intense interest on Capitol Hill as well. The Senate intelligence committee is investigating the December 2015 NRA trip, as is the Senate Finance Committee. In December, Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden, who sits on both committees, sent letters to three key NRA figures seeking their interviews ahead of a still-forthcoming report: Keene, Brownell, and former NRA president Allan Cors.

Secret Court Papers Hint Butina May Testify in Another Trial

Adam Rawnsley

The investigations, alongside the prosecutions of Butina and Erickson, aim at a question of Russian influence over American politics beyond those concerning President Trump. The portrait prosecutors painted of Butina, Erickson, and Butina patron Alexander Torshin, a former deputy governor of the Russian Central Bank, alleges that the Kremlin cultivated the NRA as a lever with which to move the conservative movement and the Republican Party in directions convivial to Russian interests.

A lawyer for Butina declined to comment. The NRA did not provide comment for this story. In a statement provided to The Daily Beast for a previous story, a lawyer for the NRA noted that organization staff did not attend and said its CEO, Wayne LaPierre, privately expressed concerns about the trip.

Sipher, the former CIA officer, said there was “no excuse” for the NRA leadership to take the Moscow trip after Brownell was told one of his interlocutors was in close contact with the FSB.

“The NRA decision to travel to Moscow despite clear indications that Russian intelligence was involved suggests a twisted view of who are the good guys and who are the bad guys,” Sipher said. “Either the NRA leadership were engaged in willful ignorance or, worse, they had such an antagonistic attitude toward the U.S. administration [of Barack Obama] that they chose to engage with our enemies. At the end of the day, however, there is no excuse. There was no shortage of information suggesting that Vladimir Putin saw the U.S. as an enemy and that Russian intelligence was engaged in aggressive espionage and information warfare against the U.S.” ... ia=desktop