How Russian Spies Cultivated the NRA and National Prayer Breakfast to Seek Republican Assets

DOJ just announced the arrest, over the weekend, of gun rights activist Maria Butina for conspiracy to spy for Russia. (complaint, affidavit)

The affidavit explains how, between March 2015 (when she expected the GOP would “likely obtain control over the U.S. government after the 2016 elections”) and 2017, Butina worked with Aleksandr Torshin and two US persons to cultivate Republicans and lay the groundwork for warmer relations between Republicans and Russia. She focused on the NRA, she explained, because “the NRA [is] the largest sponsor of the elections in the US congress.”

The person listed as USP 1 (who has been named but I’ll wait for confirmation) laid out precisely how she should pitch herself — not too critical of Obama, pretense that there was a post-Putin world on the horizon — and gave her all the introductions to friendly types she might need.

The end of the narrative laid out in the complaint describes meticulous details around the National Prayer Breakfast last year, on February 2, 2017. Trump very nearly met with Torshin at the meeting, only pulling out at the last minute.

I’ll have more to say about this indictment (there’s a bunch of screen caps on my Twitter feed). But understand that this indictment is not even part of the Mueller probe. Nevertheless, several parts of it get two degrees away from Trump and his spawn.

162 replies
  1. harpie says:

    Here’s Trump in 2015, suggesting to Maria Butina (Russian crime boss Alexander Torshin’s special assistant) that he would lift sanctions on Russia. [VIDEO]  “I believe I would get along very nicely with Putin… I don’t think you’d need the sanctions.”

  2. harpie says:

    …sorry this is o/t…you’re probably aware of this, but just in case, it may be interesting…

    Seychelles meetings probed by Mueller included several Russians: exclusive

    Updated 5:01 PM; Posted 4:26 PM  By Erin Banco 

    […] Participants of other meetings that week in January [2017], which focused generally on Syria, energy and sanctions, hailed from Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Israel and the U.S., according to three people with knowledge of the meetings and flight manifests obtained by NJ Advance Media. All three requested to remain anonymous because they feared retribution from their respective governments.

  3. Rapier says:

    It’s the deep state vs Trump. You know, the deep state, the Justice Department.  Somebody must be seething about Sessions. And then there’s Coats.

    No matter. The banking giants C, BAC, JPM were up around 4% today.

  4. harpie says:


    NEW: I can confirm that the US Congressman who allegedly met with Butina and Torshin in August 2015 in Moscow was Dana Rohrabacher.

    • harpie says:

      NEWS: Rep. ROHRABACHER tells me he could be the lawmaker referenced in the Butina indicment. Also, he says indictment is “stupid” and that it’s the “deep state” trying to poison the U.S.-Russia relationship. / “There are people in what we call ‘deep state,’ meaning these guys have wormed their way into power in the Obama years and before and have their own political agenda. And they’re utilizing every bit of leverage that they’ve got to accomplish their mission.” – Dana Rohrabacher / And here’s the Daily Beast scoop confirming that it was*definitely* Rohrabacher and Democrat Greg Meeks on the Aug 2015 codel to Russia: >>>

      EXCLUSIVE: Republican Dana Rohrbacher and Democrat Greg Meeks were the congressional delegation referenced in the charges against alleged Russian spy Maria Butina.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Two anonymous government officials.  Routine character assassination.  Excuses Hooker’s firing and discredits his later views and protest. Automatically relegates him to the status of a corporate epithet also known as a disgruntled former employee.

      It might even be accurate.  But Bolton, in imitation of Dick Cheney, is a past master at such dastardly HR moves.  The Daily Beast is not immune to stenography, and often stops with the press release and “off the record” explanations of it.

  5. Rugger9 says:

    Well, since Mueller asked for a whole bunch of subpoenas I would suspect we have yet another string to pull and perhaps this case is why the OSC asked for them. The NRA appears to have been one of the preferred ways to funnel foreign money into the 2016 election (courtesy of the Citizen’s United ruling) which is blatantly illegal. If we get a D congress elected in November, and we successfully fend off whatever special session mischief the traitorous GOP does afterward to lock in their ill-gotten gains (you know they will do it) some work will need to be done to SCOTUS-proof fair play.

    • cheyanne says:

      Putin isn’t waiting for Nov. elections to get the sanctions lifted.  He needs it done now.  Trump’s polls are not getting better and the investigation is heating up.  The mention of the Magnitsky Act at the summit was the sign that the deal was done.

      • TheraP says:

        INRI: Also the letters above Jesus’ cross.

        Interesting symbolism there. International gun enthusiasts as Christ killers.

        Oops! Misread that! Well, there must be ‘some’ connection….

  6. pseudonymous in nc says:

    “understand that this indictment is not even part of the Mueller probe”

    But there are aspects of the Butina/Torshin narrative that may impinge upon it, and that part of the timeline (from April to mid-September 2016) is missing from the affidavit accompanying the charges. We know that’s the period when the “Kremlin Connection” email was sent to Rick Dearborn and when Torshin met Uday at the NRA convention, and also when Butina first enrolled at American University. It’s hard to believe that she taking a break during those months.

    • Rugger9 says:

      The NRA is a big fat link to the Trump campaign, lots of money sloshed through there.  Mueller would get there soon enough if he has time.

      • orionATL says:

        my thought is that the nra (national rifle association) has been an unregistered lobbyist for foreign arms manufacturerers (and some of their governments) for years – and i’m not talking about russia, china, or n. korea, but nice, normal european, and maybe some asian, nations.

        the nra is past due for a federal government doj/fbi investigation and clean up, plus a congressional investigation of foreign political influence buying over our domestic politics.

        don’t hold your breath though. there is a reason the nra is so manipulative of lots of politically ignorant suckers who like guns who serve as its political cannon fodder, so active in elections, and so solicitous of crackpot politicians – they need congressional protection to keep their racket going, to intimidate political. opposition, and to keep sensible gun control off the books.

        275 MILLION guns in a country of + – 320 million people.

        american gun manufacturers are in trouble:

        how could that be?

        • orionATL says:

          come to think of it, counsel robert mueller’s putting the legal screws to unregistered foreign agents like paul manafort might have some real valuable ripple benefits in our society, like forcing the nra to acknowledge foreign influence, or, their failing to do so, making it easier to prosecute them for – who knows, maybe confraudus?

        • Bob Conyers says:

          There is no way to avoid dealing with the fact that our laws are woefully out of date. Anti-corruption laws, campaign finance laws, corporate reporting, the whole package will need addressing, and it’s going to need a batch of crusaders like the 1974 Democrats to make it happen, along with a focused president.  Of course the ’74 Dems had a moderately nonconfrontational Supreme Court, instead of a reactionary activist majority.

    • Bob Conyers says:

      My reaction to that passage is to wonder whether Bannon set up that interaction with Priebus to give himself deniability, or if he was in fact puzzled by the incident. Bannon certainly has strong ties to Cambridge Analytica and the alt right troll network, giving him potential connections to Russia that he might want to try to neutralize. Although it’s possible was genuinely out of he loop.

      I’m sure the feds have probed the memories of both guys, at any rate, although I’m dubious we’ll get much from Mueller on what those two really knew. Which is one more reason why we really need Democrats taking at least one House of Congress to start getting people under oath.

      • SteveB says:

        Bannon certainly liked to work authors to give himself deniability on Russian connections – his otherwise gratuitous comments to Woolf about the “treasonous” nature of the 9 June Trump Tower meeting come to mind.

        However the observation that the remarks Trump made appeared to have been well prepared is a telling observation from (it would seem) people who had a good basis to judge whether Trump was extemporising or not.

        • pseudonymous in nc says:

          Butina and Torshin seem to have cultivated both gun-fondlers and evangelicals.

          Have we pinned down Person 2 yet? This TIME piece seems to point the way:

          The dinner at the George Hotel, hosted by conservative activist and Rockefeller scion George O’Neill Jr., was part of the festivities surrounding the National Prayer Breakfast, an annual event run by evangelicals to forge new, if informal, diplomatic ties through shared spiritual principles.

          (Cross-ref with para 48 of the affidavit and this op-ed.)

          Butina also seemed very interested in Scott Walker when he was considered viable in mid-2015.

        • Bob Conyers says:

          I agree that Trump was prepared for Butina’s question. My bit of idle speculation is whether Bannon was part of the preparation, or at least knew about it well before he looked at the video with Priebus.

          It’s just speculation, since I don’t have a good idea at all of what Bannon would have known. I just know he’s the kind of slippery person would try to build up his alibis. Sort of like I suspect Roger Stone sends bogus emails after meetings claiming nothing happened to try to throw any future readers off the scent.

  7. Charles says:

    A lot of congresspeople are going to be trying to figure out whether a picture of Butina and them is likely to show up in oppo ads.Or in FBI audio.

    I also note that Dan Coats signaled he’s jumping ship by contradicting Trump.

    I get the sense that there’s a clear, well-orchestrated rollout to these indictments. The issuance of the Butina indictments, with a central player in the Republican network in FBI custody, was like a red-hot brand on Trump’s face, stamping it with an R on his forehead.

    • Desider says:

      Yes, I think Mueller was careful to only roll out Russians up to now, so it stayed in US v Russia patriotic terms, not touching the Dem/GOP 3rd rail, which paid off great in condemnations at yesterday’s #treasonsummit. Now this Butina indictment doesn’t directly hit the GOP either – it’s a bit tangential as expressed, revolving around orgs the Republicans know and love, but not a direct attack – but closer, with more obvious knockons. (and it’s not Mueller per se on Butina, but his credibility just got a boost. And Trump’s credibility just took a heavy hit).

    • William Bennett says:

      A lot of congresspeople are going to be trying to figure out whether a picture of Butina and them is likely to show up in oppo ads.Or in FBI audio.

      I’ve been feeling for a while that Trump is hardly the only one in Republandia who is acting like there’s a lot to hide when it comes to Russian “assistance.” I look at it this way: Oligarchs got money. Politicians need money. And one of our parties has been working exceedingly diligently to make it easier for people with big money to shove it into their pockets, and harder for anyone else to know where that money is coming from. Hey, money is speech, and  the more speech the better, amirite?

      Apropros of which, this line popped out at me (from Josh Marshall, quoting the indictment [emph. mine]):

      “In one revealing email to a friend Erickson writes: “Unrelated to specific presidential campaigns, I’ve been involved in securing a VERY private line of communication between the Kremlin and key [Republican party] leaders through, of all conduits, the [NRA].”

      “Leaders,” plural, friends and neighbors. Leaders, plural.

      • Charles says:

        Thanks. Interesting quote from [GOP consultant and NRA activist Paul] Erickson.

        Yes, leaders. I have been very interested by the multiple lines of approach of foreign agents to Republicans. That might be another reason why multiple approaches were necessary.

  8. frs says:

    I have been told that Jim Mattis is a stand-up guy. But what will he do? I assume a lot is falling on him right now.

  9. Rusharuse says:

    Spies like us . .

    “Hey, now it’s shown there’s no collusion, there’s no obstruction, there’s no nothing. Honestly, the whole thing, it is really a media witch hunt. It’s been a media witch hunt. And it’s bad for the country… And I think what’s happening is, as usual, the Democrats have played their card too hard on the Russia thing, because people aren’t believing it. It’s a witch hunt and they understand that. When they say “treason”—you know what treason is? That’s Julius and Ethel Rosenberg for giving the atomic bomb, OK?” Trump July 2017
    Note- Rosenbergs (US citizens) were tried, convicted and executed for “conspiracy to commit espionage”. Not Treason!

  10. Peacerme says:

    What do we do if tRump has given away the store? If you were Putin, and you were turning screws, it seems to me, you might see that your time to cash in on this pres, is nearing an end. Wouldn’t you want to make certain, that the noose is around the neck before you set it free. Someone must have ears on the ground because one end of this polar narrative is that he gave Putin the keys to the kingdom.  The other end is that he gets caught and goes to jail. This outcome must have been considered a long while ago. One end, he goes to jail. The other end, tRump gave Putin alot more than we know.   At this point? How far can he be turned? Is there a limit, that USA controls??? At what point does tRump lose his leverage?? Regardless, this must be part of the consideration for brains much bigger than mine? Right? Tell me someone’s got the answers to those questions.   Someone somewhere planned for this potential outcome, right? How do we know where the line of power sits right now? Do we really know? How would we know? I say things like, this person or that would never allow this to go down. They would stop it, have planned for this because the Obama admin knew, had to know, that there is a worst case that is unthinkable. Someone has to know where this line sits. It scares me to think how many republicans might be colluding for the same reason as tRump. What power does this actually give Putin?? How much influence can he exert? Are these stupid questions? How can we test this?  Who can we ask? I want the answer to those questions.  With evidence. We need a damage assessment. Are we still in charge of our country? Or not so much…..and who is?

    • Bri2k says:

      Since no one has answered you yet, I’ll give you my “man in the street” take with the caveat that I’m no expert, have no inside info but have been following this more closely than most.

      Putin’s plan was to sow disruption and chaos, plain and simple. I think he’s gotten a far larger return on this than he ever imagined. It also occurs to me that he probably didn’t use any assets that weren’t expendable, realizing that at some point much of this would become known. Sending operatives you want gone on suicide missions has a very Stalinesque flavor.

      I think the original plan was total Republican dominance across all three branches of government and keeping the Democrats as a marginal party for the foreseeable future.

      However, none of these actors reckoned on the wild unpredictability of Trump. I keep thinking that if Trump had been just a bit smoother (like a good used car salesman) they might’ve actually pulled this off.

      End game I think is similar to Nixon. It all reaches a tipping point and Republican Congressional leadership offers Trump a way to exit gracefully. Heck, even my own awful Senator Toomey came out against Trump tweeting: “@POTUS’ blindness to Putin’s hostile acts against the US and our allies — election meddling included — is very troubling.” We get a very weak President Pence (a`la Ford) and the rest of the investigation stops short of the Trump family and disappears. This way, the Republican party survives to gerrymander another day and the American people can go back to sleeping soundly feeling like they dodged a bullet.

      I hope I’m wrong as I think every bad actor needs prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. As citizens, we have a right to know who stands by our country and who’s betraying it.

      • harpie says:

        @Bri2k July 17, 2018 at 7:20 am

        However, none of these actors reckoned on the wild unpredictability of Trump. I keep thinking that if Trump had been just a bit smoother (like a good used car salesman) they might’ve actually pulled this off. […] We get a very weak President Pence (a`la Ford) and the rest of the investigation stops short of the Trump family and disappears.

        Pence is the quintessential smooth used car salesman and, I think, is exactly what the powers behind this all wanted. Trump was a [now expendable] means to that end.

      • Rusharuse says:

        I wouldn’t underestimate the anger of the Dems, after all this is a President who out of spite obliterated Obama’s legacy. I dont see a Nixon type pardon or a Clinton tap on the wrist, I see armageddon for all things Trump. Retro oversight is coming and it will be a real bitch.

        • harpie says:

          This Dem voter is fucking enraged at all the “Obama’s Legacy” and “Obama had to protect his Legacy” whiners.

          The fact is that President [“the most powerful man in the world”] Obama could have forcefully countered this attack on US as it was happening…and, true to form, he wimped out.

        • Drew says:

          I wouldn’t be at all surprised if a bunch of evidence mysteriously migrated from the Special Counsel’s Office to the New York Attorney General. (Mueller & his people are careful & keep their heads down, but they aren’t saints–so I don’t think that “by the book” procedural stuff is as essential as some think).

          A state RICO rollup of the Trump Org. could surprise the Republicans and totally negate their “graceful exit” and protection of the Trump family.

      • Bob Conyers says:

        There’s a big question mark as to the end game being like Nixon in 1974. The title of this post notes that Russians have cultivated the NRA and the evangelicals, and Pence seems to be the guy who is cultivating the Trump-evangelical connection. It’s a fair question how much the GOP establishment is compromised at this point, and it’s not just guns and fundamentalists and the AIPAC wing, it may get all the way to ALEC and climate change deniers and more.

        Quite frankly, it’s possible Putin would be completely fine by having the GOP blown up by scandal. He may well have told Trump to come to Helsinki and bend the knee in order to make the connection unavoidable, and taint all of the GOP institutions that have wedded themselves to Trump.  More chaos in the US as the Democrats fight to reassert power over a fractured country isn’t a bad outcome for him. Heck, Putin may hate Ted Cruz as much as everyone else, for that matter.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          For Vlad, chaos is as good as a win.  That’s especially so if it lowers further the credibility of American institutions.  They are already threatened by neoliberal policies, establishment leaders from both parties ignoring the needs of most Americans (but not those of Wall Street), and largely Republican gerrymandering and voter suppression acts.

          Similarly, the chaos in the UK after the Brexit vote works to his advantage, as does Brexit itself.  It also works to the benefit of neoliberal investors who expect to buy up UK assets at firesale prices.  Britian-in-the-process-of-leaving-the-EU would be another fabulous opportunity for disaster capitalists.

  11. Charles says:

    A couple of other things occur to me. Butina seems to be very young to be running an operation of this magnitude and importance. The indictment makes it clear there is someone above her, but this person says quite a lot before worrying that their conversations might be under scrutiny.

    Second, they chose to keep her in place even after the mission was accomplished. Perhaps they figured she was too junior to matter or she had an ongoing role. That was a pretty risky move, either way. The fact that she can testify against a Russian official (someone who was undergoing therapy, BTW, and therefore might be identifiable from the indictment) makes her an especially valuable person.

    • Robert says:

      Perhaps they overestimated Trump’s ability to assert immediate control over the legal system.

      • Bri2k says:

        I think this comment is especially on point. Historically, the Russians have not understood how democratic governments function on deeper levels. It’s always been their Achilles heel.

        • Bob Conyers says:

          It may also be a result of the speed of the capitulation of the GOP fooled them into thinking they had similar prospects for the rest of the country. And to be honest, I think history will show that Trump and the GOP may have come closer to snuffing out the investigation in its beginnings than we think, and I think barely anyone is under any illusions about how shaky the foundations have been.

      • Charles says:

        I don’t see how that explains things. Butina was given a very large and important mission–probably more important than the hacking. According to Wikipedia, she was apparently about 23 years old when she began this work. Now, granted, by the time the operation went live she was about 27. But that’s a lot of responsibility for someone that young.

        And then, even more inexplicably, they left her in place after the indictments started to roll in. She was interviewed by the Washington Post a year ago and asked if she was a Russian agent. She denied it. That should have been a very strong signal that she was under scrutiny. It would have been a great time to have to take some time off from school to take care of an aging grandmother or whatever. But they left her in place.

        So, sure, maybe the Russians figured that the fix was in and there was no need to keep her out of the hands of the FBI. The Russians certainly have demonstrated incredible arrogance. But when detailed indictments were issued naming their hackers, one would have thought the Russian intelligence agencies would have taken some of their assets off the table.  Maybe they did.

        To me that suggests that for some reason (maybe the fact that she was a woman) perhaps they thought she wasn’t a critical asset.  I hope they pay heavily for that miscalculation.

        • bmaz says:

          Keep in mind that Anna Chapman was 19 when placed in London and 27 when moved to New York. Being young and female is a feature often.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          They even make TV series and films about it.  But not everyone is a former ballerina.

        • JAAG says:

          As for the relative youth, I wonder if asylum and witness protection are in their futures. I get that there are nerve agents for bad agents, but still the Russians risk losing these agents when they have to embed them as undergrads.

          EW says Skripal may have been cooperating.   I think she may have said it on Sam Seder podcast.

        • Charles says:

          I don’t discount Butina’s worth as an agent. She obviously performed extremely well.

          What I wonder about is (a) the decision to entrust her with such a critical mission, and (b) the decision to leave her in place. The decision to give her such a high level of trust must have been based on something (intelligence training? connections? )… or perhaps the mission wasn’t so critical when it began, and simply became critical after she had already proven herself.

          But leaving her in place when the heat was rising?  A very odd decision. Perhaps as Bri2k says below, she was regarded as completely expendable. But odd to do so for an agent who performed so very well.

        • arbusto says:

          Remember our diplomats in Russia are routinely harassed and assaulted.  How easy would  it be for Putin to arrest a functionary or two or three, charge them with spying and wait it out for an exchange.  Also, as robust as this Russian operation(s) is, how many more operators are flouncing around the USofA diddling our weak democracy.

  12. Desider says:

    If we compare Butina with what happened yesterday, it’s a case of subterfuge vs open gloating. I’m still wondering what Putin got out of Helsinki – a last hurrah, goodbye to Trump and all that? a vain display for personal edification? Because the sanctions aren’t going away, and peak Russia is over. Was it worth it in the end,, objectives nearly met, or far short of gold? cause 2 years of unwinding US and NATO and EU isn’t much. Pearl Harbor was a Hail Mary pass by a desperate Japan. This one wasn’t. Yet it’s blowing any cover of Russian good will, changed actor, plausible deniability. Was it just another Sochi? Or will that UAE/Saudi/Russia nuclear megadeal still somehow go through, will Moscow’s investment in Syria and Black Sea somehow pay off? I’m guessing Putin had Trump humiliate himself because Putin’s getting weaker – needs lots of foreign distractions, but he’s just wiped out his foreign assets (ok, let’s see what they can do in November… hold breath)

  13. CaliLawyer says:

    It’s getting harder and harder to see Trump as unwitting in this, particularly after that shocking Wallace/Putin interview. Chait might actually be right. He’s actually much more consistent on certain positions than assumed (or leaked), and there’s some confessed self-awareness on “unpredictability.” Hard to believe, but I’m now leaning that way.

  14. IamLou says:

    I typed a long post, originally meant for Reddit, and through countless edits and re-edits, I abandoned my rant and saved it on my PC. I still have a serious need to share my thoughts, I need to talk, and after the events of the past few days , I need to share my grim realization, along with my hypothesis of where all of this may lead.

    Hello, I am the new guy, Dem. hailing from NC. Long time lurker but huge fan and admirer of the work that goes on here. Great discussion, great community! And of course, Marcy is amazing! Now that the pleasantries are done, I want to say a few quick things. In no particular order:

    Not enough is talked about from the perspective of Russia / Putin; in the media and here.
    Not enough is done to ask, “what is the goal, what is the end game in all of this?”
    Not enough is done to address what are the long term consequences of, well, everything.
    ***Not enough is done to look at this from the largest possible picture and scale.***

    There are more but I am just about brain dead. Far too much writing and thinking tonight, (and not enough coffee) so I will go with those for now. My post was about something that clicked in me after skimming the Butina Affidavit.

    “American society is broken in relation to Russia. This is now the dividing line of opinions, the crucial one in the election race. Republicans are for us, Democrats – against – 50/50. Our move here is very important.” -Maria Butina, October 5, 2016

    She almost speaks as if it is all just a game. I understand games. I love games. I can relate to games. So I started to look at everything like a game but from a Russian perspective. It wasn’t long before I came to what I now see as a very possible outcome and what might be the goal and the prize for Russia.

    We play games to win, duh, but do we really? Don’t we mostly play just to play, and winning is just a bonus. Seriously, Russia is the loser in this, any way you spin it. Right now, team “Trump / GOP” and “Putin / Russia” are winning the first half, but I am pretty confident they will lose in the second. So why play such a dangerous game?

    What if winning isn’t the point of the game? Again, Russia is the loser in this game. I am just going to jump right to the conclusion. What if Russia can simply just make the winner resign?

    Can Russia trigger enough civil unrest to plunge the US into a civil war, thus taking us out of the game? Crazy, I know, I wouldnt belive it either, until I came to my relization. Using only sources from the emptywheel (obviously including sources that come from the investigations, idictments, articles, media etc) and Marcy’s own words / other prominent contributers, I can explain exactly how this “could” happen and how that actually might be the goal. The prize and the point of the game. From Russias perspective; how Russia can “not be the loser.”

    I don’t want to come off like some conspiracy nut. I am not saying this is what is actually going to happen. After today though, I see it as a strong possbility. In any case, sorry if this not well received. My intentions are to add to the discusion, not to be cynical or a troll in anyway.

    • TheraP says:

      It’s my observation that Empires eventually collapse from within.  And you’re suggesting, Russia is helping it along.  Assisting the disembowelment.  With no second there to decapitate.

      We’re in the belly of the beast.  With no cave divers to rescue us.

      I am reduced to metaphors.

      • Bob Conyers says:

        Always remember, though, that every empire has survived a raft of crises. Otherwise, they never would have become empires.

        The US won’t last forever, and this time may be critical, but it’s not a sure thing.

    • lamsmy says:

      Putin lost his game a long time ago. In fact he wasn’t even on the right court. All this effort to destabilise his perceived foes in Europe and the US is a complete waste of time and resources.

      Russia is the biggest country in the world, with immense natural resources, a large, fairly well educated population, and a very creaky but established social welfare structure. That it doesn’t make it into even the top 50 countries by per capita gdp is an absolute disgrace.

      Putin is superb at the mid-level spy game, exchanging tit for tat, and sowing discord in his wake. None of this benefits the Russian people. He has no long game.

      Ditto for Trump and much of the GOP.

      • Trip says:

        They are increasing retirement age for pension benefits (which will be beyond the mortality of most men), while simultaneously subsidizing people like Deripaska so he doesn’t lose out after sanctions against the aluminum company. They are sickening people with pollution. They steal the Russian people’s money to live beyond lavishly, and they launder money internationally. And the Trump cult doesn’t think Putin and the Kremlin are “globalists”.

    • Desider says:

      Yes, interested in your followup – I don’t see the payoff, 15 years of incredible intrigue to… get 2 years of compliant president but no real gains, not even end to sanctions. And 2nd prize, *2* weeks in Syria!!!
      There’s the trillion dollar nuke plant deal, but if US majority party changes, that’s probably dead.
      Putin’s popular enough at home and was just re-elected and will probably manage president-for-life no matter what.
      So besides some one-upmanship, where does Putin see the *real* endgame? Is he banking on the sheer # of people compromised and ability to blackmail infrastructure attacks to keep influence, and for what gain? Just money? Where does *he* see Russia in 5 years? Where is the ball/court moving?

        • Trip says:

          There’s the strawman. “It’s good for leaders to meet with adversaries”. That’s not what people are stunned about it. He changes the subject. No one said, “Trump should never meet with adversaries”.

          This meeting was not within the context of gaining anything for the US via meeting with an adversary. It follows completely dissing our allies, it remains blind to the fact the Russians have ‘deep state’ for manipulation, and the president didn’t even entertain the conclusions of his own country’s intelligence. How does he unequivocally side with an ex-KGB agent? It presumes Putin as innocent and pure as the driven snow. Trump literally licked Putin’s boots, and to what end?  Putin himself didn’t flat out deny having kompromat on Trump. Then he made up a story about Browder’s contribution to Clinton, when absolutely no evidence exists to support this shit. But oh, Paul doesn’t trust our intelligence, so let’s go with Putin being above reproach.

          Rand Paul is a disingenuous POS. And other people on this site have linked to articles about his father getting campaign financing from the Russians.

        • TheraP says:

          Trump with Putin: Some weird sad-masochistic ritual. Trump as High Priest (in his deluded mind) anointing/giving absolution to his Master, Putin. A disgusting display. A masquerade. Like a Black Mass. Trump made to kiss and drink the poisoned chalice.

          I am sickened. And grief stricken. And reduced to metaphors.

        • posaune says:

          I feel the same, TheraP.    Completely punched and sickened.   I keep thinking of my dad who flew the Berlin airlift (and 42 B-17 missions, 1943-44, where 50% of his colleagues perished).

          It’s mind-boggling the significance of all this. And to think that Marcy, almost solely in the public, has the real grasp of it, truly.

  15. Trip says:

    LMAO, yeah, it’s all about Planned Parenthood. They are so fucking transparent with their bullshit.

    The U.S. Treasury said on Monday that it will no longer require certain tax-exempt organizations including politically active nonprofit groups, such as the National Rifle Association and Planned Parenthood, to identify their financial donors to U.S. tax authorities…The change protects the privacy of wealthy donors of “dark money” donations to politically active groups. Conservatives have complained that the disclosures to the IRS, though not public, were susceptible to media leaks.~ Reuters

      • Trip says:

        IKR? Couldn’t be more obvious, and they don’t care. Since they don’t care, why even bother hiding it?

        • TheraP says:

          They’re reducing this to a farce. Fall of Empire. As farce.

          I am so sad this morning. Grief stricken!

        • arbusto says:

          Great cut. Thanks

          I find increasing my consumption of Cazadores Blanco works for me.  Costco sells a 1.5l bottle; just the right size of an evening

        • harpie says:

          This is why, when I first saw this article this morning, it landed in the CORRUPTUS section of my Personal Daily Newsletter, and not in US TODAY, where it might have been a month ago.

          Origin and Etymology of corrupt: Middle English, from Anglo-French or Latin; Anglo-French, from Latin corruptus

          Here’s the photo I use for that section:
          [Irving Penn, 12 Apples, New York, 1985 Copyright © The Irving Penn Foundation] 

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Scramble, scramble.  Mnuchin and the GOP are acting as if they were in a Cheech & Chong movie.  “Quick! Hide the reds!” before the highway patrolman gets to the car.

      The snark of including Planned Parenthood, when the transparent aim of this action was to allow the NRA to continue to hide its dark money, is nauseating. 

      I recommend that Mr. Mnuchin read the Altstoetter case.  It might help explain what will be happening to him and some of his colleagues.

      But this does answer the question on every MSM’ers mind today:  Will Republicans do anything about Mr. Trump other than clutch their pearls?

      • Trip says:

        The “pearl clutching” is phony FAKE NEWS.  They know Trump revealed himself, that he looked unabashedly compromised by Putin, so instead of DOING anything, they release stern comments on weakness, like as if they really gave a shit about Trump being sold out. They DON’T CARE. But they have to pretend to, for the optics. For now, anyway. They are moving toward legislating out anything and everything they’ve ever done criminally.

  16. FRANK TRIPOLI says:

    trump is easily manipulated by putin because they share a jealous contempt for the rule of law, which they see as hampering their ambitions for absolute power.

    putin is, of course, untouchable. trump is vulnerable, and thus far weaker, and more desperate.

    The USA we lost when we elected a person who is incapable of grasping the magnitude of his office which, by definition, elevates nation above person. He is blinded by his malignant narcissism, and nothing else matters.

  17. Peacerme says:

    Listening to John Brennan this am, he is very afraid. He just kept repeating that Putin is skilled KGB, recorded conversation, another nail in the kompromat coffin. He just kept repeating “2 hours alone”. His concern was clearly the number of assets that he fears might be in danger.
    1) changed the outcome of 2016
    2) split our country in half
    3) gave legitimacy to dictatorship
    4) weakened our allies in democracy

    Putin has done very well. What could Putin accomplish, what’s the worst case, in those two hours? It’s astounding to me. If Putin has a sure way to influence our elections, we are sunk. John Brennan seems truly concerned about what happened during those two hours.

  18. Donald E Loveless Jr says:

    It looks like Russia is using the NRA just like Israel is using the evangelicals.

    • TheraP says:

      Russian Orthodox Church in the US. Also a place where you might see actual Russian Thugs – Russian Mafia. We once attended a “service” at one, where a famed Icon was on display. I whispered several times to my husband: “We are surrounded by Russian thugs. Russian mafia.” It was very scary. I would have fled, but the place was packed. The Thugs looked/behaved like they’d never been in a church. But it’s another avenue they’re probably exploiting.

      • Trip says:

        Yeah, Russia is using the Orthodox Church for European outreach. There was overlap in influence with the Kochs. Religion as political ideology, but really, simply a cover for tyranny. And Netanyahu is tyrannical as well, especially as it relates to the Palestinian people.

  19. tjallen says:

    Has there been discussion of this concept of “post-Putin Russia” ? It is mentioned a couple times in the legal papers (affidavit), and I see ew above scoffs at the “pretense that there was a post-Putin world on the horizon,” but we should acknowledge and analyze this. I did a quick google search on “site ‘post Putin’ Russia” and got this article, plus other articles citing this one, but I may have missed discussion of the phrase. Here are a couple points from affidavit sections 20-21:
    1. US Person 1 describes Butina’s desire to “speak for Russian
    interests that will be ascendant (still around) in a post-Putin world while
    simultaneously doing nothing to criticize the President or speed the arrival
    of his successor.”
    2. USP1 says American politicians and businessmen will easily understand Butina’s positioning, but that the press would be a problem (unless off the record).
    3. USP1 says, “Everyone On this list [of potential media, business, and political contacts] understands (to some degree) U.S. / Russian relations under President Obama and President Putin. Everyone on this list would like to better understand U.S. / Russian relations under new presidents for each country.”
    4. USP1 again, Butina will discuss relationships “for a time when the political situation between the U S. and Russia will change…”
    5. Although USP1 refers to animosity between Putin and Obama as hindering US-Russia cooperation, I’m more interested in the dynamic that various US Persons find Russia attractive but Putin himself unattractive. US Persons who find Putin a hindrance in their plans. Note especially the instruction that Butina was to do and say nothing that might further regime-change in Russia, even though Russian regime-change is obviously in the cards, to make a “post-Putin” Russia.

    • bmaz says:

      Aw jeez, let’s not equate that rambling nutjob Seth Abramson with Marcy and the work done here. They have nothing in common.

    • TheraP says:

      Helpful summary. I’d be interested in Marcy’s take on it. But, quiet as she’s been today, she’s likely deep in the weeds, preparing a post that may be way over my pay grade.

      This, however, was well within my comprehension level.

  20. harpie says:

    Three Tweets

    1] 7:11 AM – 17 Jul 2018 

    Breaking: Russian MoD says in statement that it’s ready to implement agreement on international security Putin and Trump reached in Helsinki. / Russian MoD says it’s “ready to activate contacts with US colleagues via general staffs and other existing communication channels to discuss extending Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, cooperation in Syria, other current issues of ensuring military security.”

    2] 7:13 AM – 17 Jul 2018

    what agreement on international security

    3] 7:22 AM – 17 Jul 2018 

    While I had a great meeting with NATO, raising vast amounts of money, I had an even better meeting with Vladimir Putin of Russia. Sadly, it is not being reported that way – the Fake News is going Crazy!

  21. Rugger9 says:

    One thing to watch is whether any more generals come out and say what MGEN Eaton did about Kaiser Quisling (not fit to lead our troops).  Since service members are not allowed to disparage superiors (unless granted “permission to speak freely”, typically done in private) this step was pretty radical and if emulated an indication that some of the Pentagon is not going to support the palace in all things.

    • Viget says:

      Eaton was near apoplectic on CNN last night.  He looked as though he was about to cry at some points.  I can’t ever remember a US General appearing that out of sorts before on TV.

      Whatever happened in Helsinki, it wasn’t good. The people in the know look mighty worried.

      • TheraP says:

        Makes you wonder – or hope – that the American translator during the 2 hour meeting might/could feel obliged to violate a Trumpian (anti-Constitutional) bargain for his personal loyalty (over the govt employee’s explicit duty to the Constitution). It’s my understanding that his White House high level appointees have signed confidential agreements like that. What about translators?

        Not that it’s really legal. (Though IANAL by any stretch of the imagination.)

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          WH staff work for the USG.  They are not personal employees of the president.  A purported non-disclosure agreement would not be enforceable in the context of any criminal proceeding, and most likely not for any other purpose. They would almost certainly violate the PRA. They are intimidating, however, the process to overcome them is not slight, and that would be standard procedure for Trump.

          Were Trump to have tried requiring NDAs from his WH staff, his WH counsel should have resigned over it.  Which raises a related question, where is Emmet Flood?

        • greengiant says:

          They had secretaries and such in tears forcing the to sign NDAs in the first day of the administration.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          They haven’t heard the end of those. Their enforceability is highly questionable.

          So much for McGahn’s notion of what it takes to be WH Counsel.  But I’ll repeat the rhetorical question, where is Mr. Flood?

  22. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Rod Rosenstein apparently “summoned” to the WH today.  He left alive.  No word on who wanted to talk with him or what was said.

    The Don has yet to surface today, jet lag and all that.  His PDB was cancelled today, presumably because it would inevitably be full of criticism of the Don and his BFF Vlad.

    Nussink is more important to keeping one’s WH job than making the Don look good.  It’s why everyone working there should now resign.

    • Bob Conyers says:

      It was pretty standard during Watergate for Nixon to summon the AG and FBI director to push for details on the investigation.  After a while, I think it became just a game to try to judge how many times they would blink and swallow while dodging the question. Maybe Rosenstein was sent to give his answers to the presidential dentist for a better read on his body language.

    • harpie says:

      Trump’s got one thing on his public schedule today:

      2pm The President meets with members of Congress; Roosevelt Room; Closed Press

      I bet I know which MoC’s he’s meeting with. Also, this observer

      • harpie says:

        Evidently, now there will be press at the beginning:

        Zeke Miller 9:26 AM – 17 Jul 2018

        .@PressSec: The President’s 2pm meeting with Members of Congress will have a pool spray at the top where he is expected to make remarks on his recent trip to Helsinki, Finland.

      • harpie says:

        11:53 AM – 17 Jul 2018  

        Trump says Obama admin intel chiefs “buried” info on Russian interference in election.

        11:57 AM – 17 Jul 2018   

        Three former Obama admin officials, @AmbassadorRice, former Dep NSA Avril Haines and former Homeland Security Advisor Lisa Monaco have just arrived for an interview with Senate Intel Cmte / The three are appearing as part of the Cmte’s Russia investigation, this phase on how the Obama administration responded to threat of election interference

      • harpie says:

        12:29 PM – 17 Jul 2018 

        The lights go out as @realDonaldTrump , center, speaks in the Cabinet room of the White House, Tuesday, July 17, 2018, in Washington. Trump said, “I accept our intelligence community conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place.” (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) [VIDEO]

        12:14 PM – 17 Jul 2018 

        Did you like it when the lights went out on him? That was Me.

    • orionATL says:

      yes. and hard, sharp humor it was.

      how can we apply some of these in the current american experience?

      2. This is Armenian Radio; our listeners asked us: “Is it possible to build communism in America?”

      We’re answering: “It’s possible, but who will we buy grain from?”

      3. This is Armenian Radio; our listeners asked us: “When the final phase of socialism, namely communism, is built, will there still be thefts and pilfering?”

      We’re answering: “No, because everything will be already pilfered during socialism.”

      4. This is Armenian Radio; our listeners asked us: “What is the most permanent feature of our socialist economy?”

      We’re answering: “Temporary shortages.”

      5. This is Armenian Radio; our listeners asked us: “What is the difference between capitalism and socialism?”

      We’re answering: “In a capitalist society man exploits man, and in a socialist one, the other way around.”

      copped from the internet:

      this is foxnews. our president is telling us: – – – – – – – –

      we are answering – – – – – – – –

  23. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Susan Collins’s ability to be “astonished” at Donald Trump’s behavior, while remaining determined to do nothing about it, makes her a perfect example of the Republican Party.

    “Doing something” such as making the Magnitsky Act more stringent would be like making Typhoid Mary wear smarter clothes while giving her a tour of every packed public building in Washington, DC.

    Why is tough, hard-line patriot Marine Corps General John F. Kelly still working for Donald Trump?

    • Bob Conyers says:

      Jesse Helms and Howard Metzenbaum used to tie the Senate up in knots to get things they wanted. There is incredible power in a single senator, even these days with weaker rules, if they want to use it.

      All Collins, Flake, Corker, or any other supposedly concerned GOP senator would have to do is say no Supreme Court vote until we protect Mueller and Rosenstein, and it’s done. And if two of them begin issuing demands, even more could happen. But they won’t do it.

      Something happened between the health care vote, when there was some wiggle room in the Senate, and now. Something is keeping all of them in line, and I’m dying to know what it is.

  24. DJ says:

    Reminds me of the time Kevin McCarthy said he thinks Putin pays Trump and Rohrabacher. ?utm_term=.0f01ac9ae8da

    [Please note the portion of the URL you shared which has been offset and bolded. This is a unique ID used for tracking readers. You’ll note similar tracking strings on links from other sites like the New York Times. Please remove this portion of URLs you share in the future. Thank you. /~Rayne]

    • TheraP says:

      And he was shushed by Ryan. Told to keep things “in the family.” Which keeps having new meaning as time passes.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        That’s not keeping things “in the family,” unless it’s the Corleone family.  It’s hiding crimes they have an obligation to disclose.

        • TheraP says:

          “In the family” was in quotes for exactly the reason you’re flogging. Yes, as if Ryan views the GOP as a mafia type organization complete with Omertà.

          That’s the way I always read Ryan’s remark. And yes, keeping crimes silent makes them all complicit. They should all go to prison!

          Things have gone so far round the bend that politicians and govt employees have forgotten oaths they swore to the Constitution. The number of co-agents here is astounding. (I’m using the term you flagged as how people just by cooperating can get dragged into indictment as co-conspirators or co-agents.)

          And let me say how much I appreciate all the hard work you put into this site! You and others who have tirelessly kept Marcy’s work going, just by your faithfulness to reading and commenting. Over these many years!

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Just to be clear, I understood and meant to join your comment.

          Marcy does a rare, highly professional job here, much like Izzy Stone’s in her attention to official documents and parsing their revelations, their meaning, and their inconsistencies.

          Comments expand on and extend her reach.  Thanks to all.  Even the bridge trolls are an indicator she’s making the powerful glance at their ample backsides to see if they are the emperors who have no clothes.

  25. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Why would a responsible President and Republican Party have scheduled a meeting immediately after a precedent-setting meeting between Trump and Putin to talk about the American economy?

    Ignoring the elephant in the room to talk about something inconsequential – not the Mueller indictments or his investigation, not the disaster that was the Putin press conference – is the very definition of dysfunctional.

    That Republicans and Trump have to reboot in order to talk about the Putin meeting demonstrates that none of them should have their current public employment jobs.  No more than does contemplating a weak congressional censure of Trump rather than a political shot across his bow to make Trump rethink his direction.

    He would not, of course.  It’s not in his make-up or consistent with his apparent vulnerability to Putin.  But as with Mueller’s various indictments, each sets up further indictments or establishes facts or legal arguments necessary for them.  It’s called strategery, or at least that’s the presidential term for it.

  26. Rugger9 says:

    EoH, it’s all the more interesting when one considers that the D’s were apparently not invited as of yesterday when this was announced, just like the 4th of July GOP trip to Moscow.

  27. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Whatever happens to Trump, Putin wins.

    If he stays in office and muddles through two and a half more years, the government would be barely functioning, riven as it would be with leaks, dissension and resignations and pillage from the lobbyists now running federal agencies.  Only Putin and disaster capitalists would welcome that.

    If he is sent packing, with the necessary assistance of members from his own party, we would have Pence.  Same scenario, but on steroids, as we wrestled with the ueber-fundamentalist Pence and the remains of Trump’s days in office.

    Imagine what country, China and perhaps the EU excepted, which would not be cowed when confronted by Putin’s requests, by the precedent of Putin so unsettling America.

    A strong, progressive Democratic administration could lead a recovery, but we would be lower down in the water than we are now. Just imagine, though, if Trump or Pence were re-elected, with a little help from their friends.

    • harpie says:


      […] This observation may well be accurate, since the two presidents seemed to have focused on fixing the bilateral relationship and spent less time discussing regional crises. In that sense, the content of the meeting between Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is probably more interesting. The first meeting between the top Russian and American diplomats ran in parallel to the presidential talks and was held behind closed doors and few details have thus far been released. […] Shortly after the tête-à-tête between Putin and Trump, Lavrov said, “The talks went better than super.

      Lavrov used this phrase at least once before: in February 2015, following the talks on the Minsk agreements to halt the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Back then, Russia negotiated a good deal for itself and its allied militias, but the conflict there is still a heavy burden for Russian foreign policy. This time, the Russians are more worried about the domestic constraints Trump will face and is already facing now that many Americans are even more critical of his attitude toward Putin at the summit, and the pushback’s possible impact on US policy on Russia and Syria. […] 

  28. EvelynU says:

    My on-going question: This Russian woman was confident that a Republican would win in 2016. Why would she think that? And Mitch McConnell was sure enough of a Republican/ TRUMP! win that he held a Supreme Court seat open for him. Why? Why would he expect Trump to win when it was as close as it was up to the very day of the election, and when not a single poll showed Trump winning? Did they know something that the American media, polling experts, and most people in America did not know?

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Absolute confidence is no guarantee of performance.  Ask any athlete.  But it speaks to intent and hidden knowledge.

    • Mulder says:

      What did Mitch know and when did he know it???

      He bet on the SCOTUS seat in February(!) and then stonewalled Obama in September on releasing a bipartisan statement rebuking the Russian interference.

      What did he know and when did he know it?

  29. Palli says:

    “Did they know something that the American media, polling experts, and most people in America did not know?”
    They knew about our electoral process: electronic ballot tabulation hacking and where to do it without causing suspicion having set the stage with increased ad buys to simulate late-breaking GOP interest?

  30. x174 says:

    FBI stated that US Person 1 who cohabiteated with Butina is 56 years old
    []. Cross-referencing 56-year old Congressmen
    [] with NRA members on the take []

    leaves Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania

  31. e.a.f. says:

    The Russians set the Republicans up and did a dam fine job of it. The Republicans in their quest for power, never bothered to think of their country. They didn’t stop to think about anything. The guns were fine, killing kids was fine, they wanted the NRA money and the Russians exploited it.

    “When you look at Alabama politics and the dirt which went on there, including the Governor wanting to “spy” on two bloggers who opposed him, you can understand how the Americans voted for the Republicans and how the Republicans supported Trump.

    How can any country now trust the U.S.A. NATO WOULD be best to dump the U.S.A. Who needs a country which reports to Russia, well at least their president. What type of a Pres. tells Putin he thinks it would be O.K. to “interview’ a couple of American citizens, when one of those Putin would surely like to kill, Browder.

    Trump has done the bidding of Putin, because they gave him the Presidency. Trump is such an idiot and if the Republicans don’t stand up to Trump, they will deserve what they get as will the electorate, if they re elect any of these corrupt politicians who take money from the NRA.

    I recall a student asking Cruz if he’d take money from the NRA after the Parkland shootings. wonder what he and Rubio would say now to taking money from the NRA. I’d bet they’d still take the NRA money and continue this disaster in democracy.

  32. Jeff Kaye says:

    Please stop calling her a spy. She was not indicted for spying or eapionage. Even the Wall Street Journal has retracted their claim of her spying. Maintaining that position would be dishonest.

    WSJ: “Corrections & Amplifications
    “Maria Butina has been charged by federal prosecutors with failing to register as an agent of a foreign power. An earlier headline on this story incorrectly referred to her as an alleged spy. (July 17, 2018)”

    • bmaz says:

      Intelligence asset? Operative?

      Seriously, we should care about the semantics used to describe Butina?

      “Spy” works just fine.

Comments are closed.