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America's terrorist organisation, the NRA, is colluding with Russian spies…

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Having fun in the hills!

« on: July 17, 2018, 09:40:35 pm »

from The Washington Post…

Timeline: The odd overlap of Maria Butina, the
gun-rights movement and the 2016 election

The NRA, the GOP and Russia.

By PHILIP BUMP | 7:06PM EDT — Monday, July 16, 2018

An attendee holds a Smith & Wesson revolver at the company's booth during the National Rifle Association annual meeting in Dallas on May 5, 2018. — Photograph: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News.
An attendee holds a Smith & Wesson revolver at the company's booth during the National Rifle Association annual meeting in Dallas on May 5, 2018.
 — Photograph: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News.

ANOTHER CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION against another Russian national who was involved in the 2016 election was announced on Monday by the Justice Department — but the circumstances are far different from what we've seen in the past.

To date, the investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III into Russian interference in the 2016 election has resulted in indictments against 25 Russian nationals and three Russian businesses. The criminal complaint filed against Maria Butina, the founder of a pro-gun group in Russia, comes not from Mueller but from the Justice Department directly. Butina is accused not of trying to influence the 2016 election or having colluded with the campaign of President Trump but, instead, of having conspired to act as an agent of the Russian government.

This doesn't mean, though, that Butina had no connection to the campaign. In fact, she worked closely with a former Russian politician named Alexander Torshin, who was sanctioned by the U.S. government earlier this year. Torshin actively sought to build a connection with the Trump campaign in 2016, according to various reports that have emerged over the past year, including leveraging his lifetime membership in the National Rifle Association to build a relationship with Donald Trump Jr., the president's eldest son.

Maria Butina attends a rally at Krasnopresnenskaya Zastava Square in support of legalising the possession of handguns. — Photograph: ITAR-TASS.
Maria Butina attends a rally at Krasnopresnenskaya Zastava Square in support of legalising the possession of handguns. — Photograph: ITAR-TASS.

It's not clear how significant the criminal complaint against Butina might be. But it's worth fleshing out the timeline presented in that case in order to show where Butina, Torshin and 2016 politics overlapped. This timeline includes several points first presented in a very good report by Mother Jones.

2011: Maria Butina forms Right to Bear Arms in Russia. The aim of the organization mirrors that of the NRA: Broadening Russians' access to firearms.

April 15, 2012: Alexander Torshin, a former Russian senator and lifetime member of the NRA, tweets about Butina's group, comparing it to the NRA.

His longstanding relationship with Butina and biographical descriptions included in the complaint make it clear that the “RUSSIAN OFFICIAL” identified in the document is Torshin.

2013: Per the complaint, Butina allegedly makes contact with an American political operative (“U.S. Person 1” in the complaint), who agrees to introduce her to influential figures in American politics. That includes a “gun rights organization,” identified contextually within the complaint as the NRA.

November 2013: John Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and, since April 2018, White House national security adviser, records a video promoting an expansion of gun rights in Russia that's later used by Right to Bear Arms for promotion.

April 2014: Butina and Torshin attend the national NRA convention.

March 24, 2015: Butina allegedly emails Person 1 to propose a project titled “Diplomacy”. (The email subject line apparently makes reference to a former KGB propagandist.) She writes that the Republican Party (identified only as POLITICAL PARTY 1 in the complaint) will likely gain power in 2016 but is “traditionally associated with negative and aggressive foreign policy, particularly with regards to Russia.” The time was right, she wrote, to build a relationship with the party, using the “central place and influence” in the Republican Party of the NRA.

She noted her relationship with the NRA and past interactions with Republican officials in the email, anticipating a $125,000 budget to be spent on major political conferences. Person 1 responded with suggestions about people with whom she should meet and some strategic recommendations.

April 24, 2015: Butina attends the NRA convention in Nashville. There she and Torshin meet Governor Scott Walker (Republican-Wisconsin), who reportedly greets her in Russian.

June 12, 2015: Writing for National Interest, Butina argues that a Republican president might be the only way to improve relations with Russia. After the article was published, she sent it to Torshin, who approved.

July 11, 2015: Butina asks Trump a question at FreedomFest, a libertarian event held that year in Las Vegas. As president, she asked, would Trump continue the sanctions imposed against Russia in 2014?

“I know Putin, and I'll tell you what, we get along with Putin,” Trump replied. “Putin has no respect for President Obama. Big problem. Big problem. And Russia has been driven — you know I've always heard, for years I've heard, one of the worst things that can happen is if Russia ever gets driven to China. We have driven them together, with the big oil deals that are being made. We've driven them together. That's a horrible thing for this country. We have made them friends because of incompetent leadership. I believe I would get along very nicely with Putin, okay? And I mean where we have the strength. I don't think you’d need the sanctions.”

July 13, 2015: Butina attends the launch of Walker's presidential campaign.

August 2015: Butina allegedly assists Torshin in preparing for a congressional delegation to Moscow. It's not clear who participated in this trip.

December 8, 2015: An NRA delegation arrives in Moscow to meet with Butina's group. Right to Bear Arms covers some of the trip's costs. Included in the group is former Milwaukee County sheriff David Clarke.

2015 and 2016: Butina allegedly exchanges emails with another American (“U.S. Person 2”) in an effort to arrange a series of dinners in New York and Washington to introduce Russians to people influential in American politics.

January 19, 2016: Butina allegedly contacts Torshin about logistics for the upcoming National Prayer Breakfast.

February 4, 2016: The National Prayer Breakfast is held with Torshin in attendance. He regularly attended the event.

February 14, 2016: Torshin tweets that Butina is in the United States, where she reports that Trump is “for cooperation with Russia,” according to Mother Jones.

March 14, 2016: Butina allegedly emails Person 2 and indicates that Torshin had informed her that “Putin's side” had approved of her outreach plan to high-profile political figures.

March 30, 2016: Butina allegedly emails an organizer of the prayer breakfast to suggest that Putin might attend in 2017, given certain conditions. He did not, but the organizer offered 10 spots at the 2017 event for Putin.

May 2016: Through two different individuals close to the Trump campaign, Torshin tries to set up a meeting with Donald Trump Jr. when the two are at the NRA convention in Kentucky later that month. In one of the emails, adviser Rick Dearborn explained that Russia was “quietly but actively seeking a dialogue with the U.S.”

May 10 and 11, 2016: Butina allegedly contacts Persons 1 and 2 to set up a series of dinners with influential political figures later that month.

At some point in May, Butina is allegedly part of a group seeking a meeting with the Trump campaign to discuss persecutions against Christians, according to Washington Post reporting.

May 20, 2016: At a dinner on the sideline of the NRA convention, Torshin and Trump Jr. are seated near each other and meet briefly.

August 2016: Butina allegedly arrives in the United States on an F-1 student visa.

September 16, 2016: Butina allegedly emails Persons 1 and 2 to express an urgent need for another dinner with prominent figures in Washington out of concern that those looking for Russia expertise would turn to the “currently popular radically oppositional to Russia crowd of experts.”

October 4, 2016: Person 1 allegedly emails an acquaintance.

“Unrelated to specific presidential campaigns,” he writes, “I've been involved in securing a VERY private line of communication between the Kremlin and key POLITICAL PARTY I leaders through, of all conduits, the [NRA].”

October 5, 2016: Over Twitter, Butina allegedly messages Torshin, who is being treated in a hospital: “We made our bet. I am following our game. I will be connecting the people from the prayer breakfast to this group…. Yesterday's dinner showed that American society is broken in relation to Russia. This is now the dividing line of opinions, the crucial one in the election race. [The Republicans] are for us, [Democrats] — against- 50/50. Our move here is very important.” (The complaint obscures the identity of the parties.)

They also allegedly discussed whether or not Butina should serve as an election observer, but decide against it. “Right now everything has to be quiet and careful,” Butina writes. Torshin had served in that capacity in 2012, according to Mother Jones.

October 17, 2016: Butina allegedly asks Torshin if he has recommendations for the prayer breakfast seats.

November 8, 2016: Trump wins the presidency. The NRA spends more than $30 million supporting his campaign.

November 8 and 9, 2016: Butina and Torshin allegedly discuss the election results.

“Think about in which areas of life we could go towards bringing us closer. ISIS understandably, what else we need to look at the American agenda,” Torshin allegedly writes. Butina suggests a phone call, but he worries that their phones are tapped. In May, Yahoo reported that Torshin's phones were tapped — by Spanish authorities.

November 11, 2016: Butina allegedly sends Torshin a proposal for a conference, featuring a number of members of Congress, focused on Russia.

November 12, 2016: Torshin allegedly rejects the plan, saying that “they” won't go for it — a message that prosecutors allege signal instruction from the Russian government to Butina.

November 30, 2016: Butina allegedly emails Person 1 about the prayer breakfast, assuring Person 1 that the people included in the Russian delegation, handpicked by Torshin and herself, were “coming to establish a back channel of communication.”

December 1, 2016: Person 1 allegedly explains to Butina how to book the hotel for the Russian delegation to the prayer breakfast and suggests that Torshin cover the cost.

December 26, 2016: Torshin allegedly explains who will and won't be attending, as per the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

January 20, 2017: President Trump is inaugurated.

Butina attends one of the inaugural balls, according to Washington Post reporting.

February 2, 2017: Butina and Torshin attend the prayer breakfast.

February 6, 2017: Butina allegedly thanks a prayer breakfast organizer for meeting with her and suggests she has “important information” for the organizer. She asks for a follow-up meeting.

February 8, 2017: Butina allegedly emails Person 2 to thank him.

“My dearest President has received ‘the message’ about your group initiatives and your constructive and kind attention to the Russians,” she writes.

January 18, 2018: McClatchy reports that Mueller's team is investigating the NRA's role in the 2016 election. In a letter released several months later, the group indicates having received only about $2,500 from “people associated with Russian addresses.”

April 6, 2018: Torshin is one of more than 20 Russians sanctioned by the American government in response to Russian interference in 2016, among other incidents.


Philip Bump is a national correspondent for The Washington Post based in New York. Before joining The Post in 2014, he led politics coverage for The Wire at The Atlantic.

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« Reply #1 on: July 17, 2018, 09:43:49 pm »

Yep....it isn't just Trump who is a traitor to America.

America's domestic terrorist organisation, the NRA, has also been colluding with Russian spies.

As has Trump's latest national security advisor, John Bolton.

Strap the lot of them into the electric chair (Trump included) and fry them for treason.

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« Reply #2 on: July 17, 2018, 09:44:01 pm »

from The Washington Post…

Maria Butina, Russian gun-rights advocate who sought to build
ties with NRA, charged with acting as a covert Russian agent

Butina, 29, is accused of trying to establish “back channel” communications
and was arrested Sunday in Washington, D.C.


Russian gun rights activist Maria Butina, who has been charged with conspiracy to act as an agent of Russia, at a Las Vegas conservative political event in July 2015. — Photograph: FreedomFest.
Russian gun rights activist Maria Butina, who has been charged with conspiracy to act as an agent of Russia, at a Las Vegas conservative
political event in July 2015. — Photograph: FreedomFest.

A RUSSIAN WOMAN with ties to a senior Russian government official was charged in Washington on Monday with conspiracy to act as an agent of the Russian Federation, including by building ties to the leadership of the National Rifle Association and other conservative political organizations.

Maria Butina, 29, who recently received a graduate degree from American University, was arrested on Sunday in the District and made her first appearance in U.S. District Court before Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson, where she was ordered held without bond.

Butina is accused of trying to cultivate relationships with American politicians to establish “back channel” lines of communication and seeking to infiltrate U.S. political groups, including an unnamed “gun rights organization,” to advance Russia's agenda. Descriptions in court papers match published reports about Butina's interactions with the NRA.

The case, which is not part of the special counsel investigation into Russian interference, lays out the strongest allegations to date of American involvement in Russia's influence operations.

Butina was allegedly assisted in her efforts by a U.S. political operative who helped introduce her to influential political figures. That person was not charged and is not named in court papers, but the description matches that of Paul Erickson, a GOP consultant who sought to organize a meeting between then-candidate Donald Trump and Alexander Torshin, Butina's Russian colleague and a former Russian senator, at a May 2016 NRA convention.

NRA officials and Erickson did not respond to requests for comment.

Butina's attorney, Robert Neil Driscoll, denied that she is a Russian agent and said she was merely networking to develop relationships with Americans.

He told the judge that she had testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee in a closed session several months ago and had offered before her arrest to cooperate with the government.

Butina did not speak during the brief hearing, other than to state her name. A detention hearing and preliminary hearing were set for Wednesday.

The Russian Embassy said in a statement to the Interfax News Agency that it is “seeking consular access” to Butina “with the aim of defending her legal rights.”

A former furniture store owner from Siberia and gun-rights activist, Butina was the first to publicly quiz President Trump about his views on Russia when she asked him a question at a town hall in July 2015.

She also briefly met Donald Trump Jr., the president's eldest son, at the NRA convention in May 2016, according to a person familiar with the encounter.

Court filings do not mention her interactions with Trump and his son, but do recount Butina's other contacts regarding the NRA convention and the National Prayer Breakfast, an annual event attended by government and political leaders in Washington. Erickson sought to arrange a meeting for Torshin with Trump at the February 2017 breakfast, according to a person familiar with the event.

After attending the event with a large Russian delegation, Butina wrote to an organizer to offer “important information for you to further this new relationship” with Russia, according to court filings. The nature of the information is not described.

The charges against Butina were announced days after the Justice Department unveiled an indictment against 12 Russian intelligence officers for allegedly conspiring to hack Democrats in 2016 and just hours after Trump cast doubt on Russia's involvement in an extraordinary joint news conference with President Vladimir Putin.

Over the weekend, law enforcement officials became increasingly concerned that Butina appeared to be planning to leave the Washington area, according to people familiar with the matter. Investigators were concerned such a trip could pose operational challenges for their work and decided to make an arrest, these people said.

Although special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is aware of the details of the Butina case, the investigative work began before he was appointed to that job, and it has continued to be handled by federal agents and prosecutors outside of his office, these people said.

In an affidavit filed with the court, FBI Special Agent Kevin Helson outlined a two-year alleged effort by Butina to penetrate and influence the U.S. political system for Russia's benefit by building ties to the American conservative movement.

Butina's efforts in the United States came as a number of Republicans began rethinking the party's traditional hostility to Russia, forming new bonds with Putin's government around conservative social views on religion and same-sex marriage. That shift culminated with the November 2016 election of Trump, who had argued throughout his campaign that the United States should seek warmer relations with Russia.

As early as March 2015, Butina emailed the American political operative about her belief that the Republican Party would likely win the White House in 2016, according to court papers. She proposed a special project to use the NRA to build relations with the GOP.

She wrote that “the resulting status needs to be strengthened” before the 2016 election and asked for a $125,000 budget to help her attend “all upcoming major conferences” of the Republican Party.

According to the affidavit, the FBI found evidence on Butina's computer that she kept an unnamed Russian official closely apprised of her activities. Descriptions of the official in the complaint match Torshin, a Russian central banker who has also built ties with the NRA.

In one March 2016 email to an unnamed American, Butina described Torshin's “desire in our Russian-American project” and indicated that a Putin representative had expressed support “for building this communication channel.”

Butina began reaching out to NRA members and other American gun enthusiasts in 2013 and hosted delegations of NRA executives and gun activists in Moscow. She and Torshin also attended a series of NRA events in the United States starting in 2014.

In June 2015, as Trump announced his candidacy, Butina wrote a column in the National Interest, a conservative U.S. magazine, suggesting that only by electing a Republican could the United States and Russia hope to improve relations.

The next month at FreedomFest, a libertarian political event in Las Vegas, she asked Trump at a public event: “What will be your foreign politics, especially in the relations with my country?”

“I know Putin and I'll tell you what, we get along with Putin,” Trump responded, in the first of his many campaign statements about his desire to build better ties with Russia.

Butina told The Washington Post in April 2017 that her question to Trump was “happenstance” and that she has never been an employee of the Russian government.

Butina also attended an NRA convention in May 2016, where Erickson worked to get Torshin a meeting with Trump. In an email to the campaign, Erickson referred to Torshin as “Putin's emissary” in an effort to improve relations with the United States, The Washington Post and other media organizations previously reported.

The meeting did not happen, but Torshin had an interaction at the event with Trump Jr., who has said it was brief and not memorable. Trump Jr. also interacted with a woman described as Torshin's assistant who he later came to believe was Butina, according to a person with knowledge of the episode.

Butina also accompanied Erickson to Trump's inauguration, one of a number of Russians who attended the festivities and toasted to better relations between Russia and the United States.


Tom Hamburger, Shane Harris and Carol D. Leonnig in Washington D.C. and Anton Troianovski in Helsinki contributed to this report.

Rosalind Helderman is a political enterprise and investigations reporter for The Washington Post. She joined the newspaper in 2001. In 2014 she was honored with the George Polk Award for political reporting and for investigation of relationships between the Virginia governor and wealthy supporters.

Tom Jackman has been covering crime and courts for The Washington Post since 1998, after handling similar beats at the Kansas City Star. Jackman helped lead the coverage of the D.C. sniper trials in 2003 and was the lead writer on The Post's breaking news coverage of the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings, which won the Pulitzer Prize. More recently he focused on the police killing of an unarmed man in Fairfax County, Virginia, which ended with the officer convicted of manslaughter and serving jail time. In 2016, Jackman launched the True Crime blog, which looks at criminal justice issues and important cases locally and nationally.

Devlin Barrett writes about national security and law enforcement for The Washington Post. He started as a copy boy at the New York Post, and since then has covered the NYPD, federal courts, and the Justice Department and its component agencies, including the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. In 2017 he was a Pulitzer Prize co-finalist in both the Feature Writing and the International Reporting categories.


Related to this topic:

 • VIDEO: Who is Maria Butina?

 • Read the affidavit about Maria Butina

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

 • VIDEO: How Maria Butina forged ties with gun rights advocates and other U.S. conservatives

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