Just before Mike Flynn Was Interviewed by the FBI, Putin Increased His Participation in the National Prayer Breakfast

There are twin filings (gag, bail) in the Mariia Butina case that I will write up separately. For the moment, I wanted to point to this passage of the government’s motion opposing Butina being released.

On January 26, 2017, [Paul Erickson] asked an acquaintance for National Prayer Breakfast tickets, noting that tickets could “advance the cause of US/Russian reset (on our terms).” [Erickson] later noted, “I was ahead of this in December, but last weekend Putin decided to up his official delegation – if we can accommodate them, we can empower rational insiders that have been cultivated for three years.”

I note it solely for the timing: it shows that the weekend of January 21-22, 2017, Putin decided to increase the seniority of his representatives attending the National Prayer Breakfast, which took place on February 2, and that decision filtered down to Erickson and Butina.

At the time, Trump had plans to meet with Aleksandr Torshin, plans which were scrapped at the last minute.

The event had been planned as a meet and greet with President Trump and Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of the Bank of Russia and a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, in a waiting room at the Washington Hilton before the National Prayer Breakfast on Feb. 2. Torshin, a top official in his country’s central bank, headed a Russian delegation to the annual event and was among a small number of guests who had been invited by Prayer Breakfast leaders to meet with Trump before it began.

But while reviewing the list of guests, a White House national security aide responsible for European affairs noticed Torshin’s name and flagged him as a figure who had “baggage,” a reference to his suspected ties to organized crime, an administration official told Yahoo News. Around the same time, a former campaign adviser alerted the White House that the meeting could exacerbate the political controversy over contacts between Trump associates and the Kremlin, another source familiar with the matter said.

It’s remarkable how many events relevant to the Mueller inquiry happened during those few weeks (and remember — Butina’s prosecution is being handled separately).

Update: This seems to suggest Butina believed there was a letter behind the earliest 2017 coverage of her (probably this Tim Mak story).

In early 2017, in response to the Russian Official’s comment to her that a reporter had contacted him about his relationship to the defendant, President Putin, and U.S. Person 1, among others, the defendant told the Russian Official that she had received inquiries from the same reporter. She told the Russian Official, “under no circumstances should you contact him. You didn’t even see the letter at all.”

34 replies
  1. Trip says:

    a former campaign adviser alerted the White House that the meeting could exacerbate the political controversy over contacts between Trump associates and the Kremlin


    • Bob Conyers says:

      Wouldn’t the odds be better it was Gates? They probably have a lot of Manafort’s emails, to be fair.

      • Trip says:

        Might be. I took “former” quite literally, as in “gone”. But I suppose anyone would be “Former Campaign blah blah blah” once Trump was elected. I was under the impression that Manafort was still advising Trump long after he left. *I think Marcy may have written this at some point?

        • Bob Conyers says:

          Manafort was definitely still in the mix at that time despite being known trouble.

          The reason I suspect Gates is because he’s a major source, but I wouldn’t rule out a Manafort email being the clue.

  2. Naomi says:

    same Isikoff article: The spokesman also said that Torshin has “privately attended the Prayer Breakfast” over the past 12 years. “In 2017, he attended the Prayer Breakfast when he was officially on vacation.

    Marcy, does your Torshin time line match any Republicans’ from that way back era?  Do your hungry fans dare ask how many Russians attended the Prayer Breakfast in each year?  Was the “increased participation” gradual?

    • Trip says:

      The Kochs, WCF, Maloveef, Putin, etc. began a collaboration via hard right religion:

      WCF and its Russian counterparts are funded by right-wing heavy hitters, including oil executive Jerry Fullinwider, a member of the Koch brothers’ inner circle; the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, one of the leading funders of the Heritage Foundation, climate-denying Heartland Institute, and the brain trust behind the Hobby Lobby case; and its parent institution, the Howard Center.And its ‘partner organizations’ include Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, the American Family Association, Concerned Women for America, Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, Alliance Defending Freedom, and Americans United For Life.

      Russians and the American right started plotting in 1995.

      Kremlin-linked Russian politician Alexander Torshin traveled frequently between Moscow and various destinations in the United States to build relationships with figures on the American right starting as early as 2009, beyond his previously known contacts with the National Rifle Association.
      Hall said their message was: “You know, we don’t like LGBT causes any more than you conservatives on the right in the United States do; we are interested in engaging the NRA … the church plays an important role in Russia just as it should in the United States.”

  3. pseudonymous in nc says:

    Although the defense contends that the defendant is in a committed relationship with U.S. Person 1, she recently offered to provide information to the government about his illegal activities.

    That probably refers to the proffer negotiations, and also implies that Erickson has already made a deal with prosecutors.

    Anyway, yes: the period covering the inauguration, O’Neill dinner and National Prayer Breakfast was… busy.

  4. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The press is alive with talk about Nixon’s Plumbers and the claim that the cover-up is always worse than the crime.  It’s not.  The crimes are often worse.

    The cover-up frequently involves obstruction and lying to investigators.  Serious, mid-level crimes for which prison time can be considerable.

    The probable crimes hidden by the obstruction of aides and underlings have included conspiracy, fraud, obstruction, bank fraud and money-laundering, witness tampering, destruction of evidence, violations of constitutional obligations and rights, abuse of process, breaking and entering, assault, burglary, and so on.

    Lewis Libby, for example, was convicted in 2007 of obstruction, perjury, and making false statements.  He was sentenced to 30 months in prison, commuted by Bush to time served.  He lost his law license, but got it back in 2016.  Last year, he received a pardon from Trump.  Libby protected his president and the vice president from criminal investigation concerning at least the outing of a covert intelligence operative, itself related to the lies that led to the Iraq invasion in 2003.

    The government felons involved in the Reagan era Iran-Contra affair stonewalled Walsh’s investigation.  Principal convictions were overturned.  They protected the president and vice president from criminal investigation related, at a minimum to obstruction, lying to federal investigators, violating federal statutes, and conducting an illegal covert war.

    Nixon’s advisers and plumbers did go to jail.  But Nixon himself received a prospective pardon from Gerald Ford, which hid greater crimes than those committed by his underlings.  Those arguably included receiving foreign help and money for his re-election, and interfering with the Paris Peace talks, arguably extending the duration of the Vietnam War.  A lot of blood on those pardoned hands.

    • Bob Conyers says:

      Nixon set up the Plumbers because he and the FBI had a rotten relationship, and what so many accounts ignore is that the Plumbers weren’t loose cannons, they acted at Nixon’s direction. A strong theory I’ve read is that Nixon sent the Plumbers after the DNC because he was worried they were in the trail of his work to kill the 1968 peace talks (they weren’t).

      Today, many of Trump’s crimes follow from his fear of the FBI, and he is deeply worried about evidence of his pre-election crimes coming to light. An interesting question is who are Trump’s Plumbers?

      To an extent that role was filled by Pecker and AMI, but now they’re under the microscope. TMZ and Harvey Levin are another possible outlet that supposedly have grown distant. Roger Stone is very risky now. So you have to wonder if Trump is turning to someone else for dirt, who that would be, and how they’re getting it.

      Kavanaugh’s complete moral blankness toward stolen and hacked information suggest he can be a valuable ally in the future for Trump.

      • Trip says:

        The Russian mob on automatic; meaning they don’t have to be asked?

        Black Cube? Or Israel?

        ‘Iran fighting to survive,’ Trump says on Rosh Hashanah greeting call

        Trump spoke about the issue Thursday during a Rosh Hashanah phone call with rabbis and Jewish leaders. Taking part in the 20-minute call were his son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner; U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman; the attorney and law professor Alan Dershowitz; and former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota.

        It’s interesting that WaPo, however, thinks Javanka are the authors of the anonymous NYT op-ed. So who knows?

        Bolton, Bibi and Dershowitz itching for some war. I guess that might happen without Trump.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Javanka?  How Shakespearean.

          Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day, to the last syllable of recorded time.

          • Trip says:

            Actually they thought Jared, specifically. But I can’t imagine it not involving Ivanka too. Remember how she/they were touting themselves as a moderating influence on Donald? *Now I can’t find the opinion piece and link, sorry.

        • Trip says:

          Links I forgot to attach to the Israel ponder:

          From Le Monde diplomatique/English Version:

          How Israel Spies on US Citizens

          A never-shown Al Jazeera documentary on the pro-Israel lobby in the United States reveals possibly illegal Israeli spying on American citizens, and the lobby’s fear of a changing political mood.



          Alan Dershowitz’s Deep Ties to Trump’s Biggest Donors
          These ties include conducting paid legal work for Trump’s biggest donor, Sheldon Adelson (who alongside his wife spent $35 million to help elect Trump) and sitting on the board of the Gatestone Institute, an anti-Muslim and anti-refugee think tank then chaired by Trump’s now-National Security Adviser John Bolton and partially funded by Trump megadonors Robert and Rebekah Mercer…In 2015, Dershowitz joined the Adelson-funded Maccabee Task Force’s board. The group, whose president is Adelson himself, works to combat the growing Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a campaign promoting various forms of boycott against Israel on U.S. college campuses. The group helps pay for campus Hillel trips to Israel at various universities but also funds more extreme organizations like the David Horowitz Freedom Center whose president, David Horowitz, has a history of espousing anti-Muslim views and a revisionist history of slavery and lynching. The Maccabee task force contributed a total of $100,000 to Horowitz’s group across the 2015 and 2016 tax years.

          Maccabee was supposedly showcased in the never released Al Jazeera documentary.

          How is Dershowitz not registered as a lobbyist?

      • Trip says:

        Kushner, Dershowitz and Trump’s ME “peace plan” is taking away medical aid for Palestinians.

        Trump cuts $25 million in aid for Palestinians in East Jerusalem hospitals

        This applies to people kept enclosed in an open prison as part of an apartheid regime, (they often, if not always) aren’t allowed to leave the country to seek medical treatment. Babies and children have died from treatable diseases in the region. How is this any less outrageous than what his policy is toward immigrant children in this country?

        And a reminder, the US supplies Israel with boatloads of aid money, and they have universal healthcare, while US citizens DO NOT, and it’s considered blasphemy to even mention it (but that’s another matter).

      • Trip says:

        Putting this here since it’s relevant to what I already posted:
        emptywheel‏ @emptywheel 10m10 minutes ago

        emptywheel Retweeted Matthew Miller

        The other thing abt this (esp the ICC, but also PLO) is it’s hard to tell if Bolton is just unilaterally using Trump’s Article II power to implement policies that, in Trump’s current state, he’ll never notice much less understand?

        Matthew Miller‏Verified account @matthewamiller

        Abusing the U.S. criminal justice system for political purposes like this would have dramatic effects on other countries’ willingness to assist us on investigations, prosecutions. https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-administration-to-close-palestine-liberation-organization-office-in-washington-1536546125 …

        Bolton and Dershowitz are/were both unregistered Israel lobbyists (and in the case of Bolton, now in government making policy).

        He wants to protect Israel against the war crimes Netanyahu is committing:

        The ICC is reaching out to victims of war crimes in Palestine

  5. TheraP says:

    It just proves the naïveté of these fundamentalists fools. Too credulous for their own good.

    Thank you, EW!

    (There should be a scientific study of how many cylinders EW can fire on simultaneously.)

  6. NJRun says:

    I think the growth of the evangelical wing of the Republican Party is the single biggest factor in how it has gone off the deep end. White evangelicals voted in higher proportion for Trump than any other demographic group. You have people who are taught to distrust logic and facts and to trust the words of an authority (preacher).

    I first wrote about why Evangelical support for Trump wasn’t surprising in October 2016, later updated here:


    And here’s an update on the religion and politics issue:


  7. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Kavanaugh and his supporters, following Clarence Thomas, are proclaiming the need to “rethink” stare decisisStare decisis is lawyers’ Latin for the idea that the decisions and reasoning from earlier cases control decisions in later cases when their facts and circumstances are sufficiently similar.

    Lawyers are drilled in and use stare decisis daily, until it becomes as automatic as a Marine breaking down and reassembling his weapon.  They assess whether earlier case law determines or can be distinguished from the case at hand, because the facts or circumstances of the case are sufficiently the same as or different from a controlling case.  It is as fundamental to the common law as gravity is to physics.

    But when Thomas and Kavanaugh talk about rethinking stare decisis, they don’t mean that process.  They mean disregarding it because it conflicts with implementing their political, business, and social agenda.

    That puts another nail in the coffin of the pretense that Kavanaugh and the Court’s conservatives are conservative.  They are not.  They are naked activists, with only their arguments covering their radicalism.

  8. Rusharuse says:

    The miracles? If I’m gonna follow Trump to the promised land first I want me some miracles. Jesus come up with loaves and fishes. Sia Baba my Indian Guru, fashioned gold rings out of thin air and sprinkled endless streams of holy vibuti from his fingertips. Joey Smith had his golden plates. Yogi’s can fly! Miracles make the difference, miracles equal street cred, no miracle no banana! So far Trump has produced nothing, no rabbit from his hat or even a hare out of his ass. Fucking nothing! So please, If anyone has proof of a Trump miracle please post, otherwise I’m calling bullshit!
    See y’all down Jonestown. Drinks are on me!

  9. Willis Warren says:

    The complete lack of introspection on the part of Republicans is alarming.  Why do the Russians like you so much?  it’s not because your policies are good for America and the world, dumbasses.  It’s because you’ve sold out to libertarian billionaires and you’re destroying the government.

  10. Bardi says:

    As IANAL, I am likely to get triggered by silliness but I locked on Erickson’s comments, in part, ” but last weekend Putin decided to up his official delegation – if we can accommodate them, we can empower rational insiders that have been cultivated for three years.”
    Admitting they have “cultivated” national insiders for three years and they, in conjunction with trump’s crime family, empower them, chills me, as an open admission of a conspiracy.

  11. Steve Sprinkel says:

    To hell in a handbasket

    Fear is a great title

    not just for a book

    but for an era

    Mueller will not indict any majors in advance of the election.

    Stop holding your breath.

    Just because others mess with the election

    doesn’t mean RM will.

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