Saturday, on a billboard along U.S. 70 outside Roswell, New Mexico:
It’s not Peoria, Illinois (July 30, 2018)
When it rains it pours.
Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, July 16, 2018
A criminal complaint was unsealed today in the District of Columbia charging a Russian national with conspiracy to act as an agent of the Russian Federation within the United States without prior notification to the Attorney General.
The announcement was made by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Jessie K. Liu, and Nancy McNamara, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.
Maria Butina, 29, a Russian citizen residing in Washington D.C., was arrested on July 15, 2018, in Washington, D.C., and made her initial appearance this afternoon before Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. She was ordered held pending a hearing set for July 18, 2018.
According to the affidavit in support of the complaint, from as early as 2015 and continuing through at least February 2017, Butina worked at the direction of a high-level official in the Russian government who was previously a member of the legislature of the Russian Federation and later became a top official at the Russian Central Bank. This Russian official was sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control in April 2018.
The court filings detail the Russian official’s and Butina’s efforts for Butina to act as an agent of Russia inside the United States by developing relationships with U.S. persons and infiltrating organizations having influence in American politics, for the purpose of advancing the interests of the Russian Federation. The filings also describe certain actions taken by Butina to further this effort during multiple visits from Russia and, later, when she entered and resided in the United States on a student visa. The filings allege that she undertook her activities without officially disclosing the fact that she was acting as an agent of Russian government, as required by law.
The charges in criminal complaints are merely allegations and every defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The maximum penalty for conspiracy is five years. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes. If convicted of any offense, a defendant’s sentence will be determined by the court based on the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The investigation into this matter was conducted by the FBI’s Washington Field Office. The case is being prosecuted by the National Security Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and the National Security Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.
There’s some very interesting stuff in the affidavit:
7. U.S. Person 1 is a United States citizen and an American political operative. BUTINA established contact with U.S. Person 1 in Moscow in or around 2013. U.S. person 1 worked with Butina to jointly arrange introductions to U.S. persons having influence in American politics, including an organization promoting gun rights (hereinafter “GUN RIGHTS ORGANIZATION”), for the purpose of advancing the agenda of the Russian Federation.
I can’t wait for the explanation from the “gun rights organization”.
Pass the popcorn.
Senator Roy Blunt (R) is a piece of work. Donald Trump, the leader of his party, is demonstrably, publicly corrupt, and almost surely owes his slim election victory, at least partly, to the machinations of a hostile and equally corrupt Russian autocrat. Yet now that the evidence of Trump campaign collusion with said autocrat is all but undeniable, thanks to the missteps of president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., Senator Blunt still wants to equivocate.
With a straight face Blunt declares that he believes that the Senate Intelligence Committee, of which he is a member, should indeed ” follow wherever the facts take them, including the possible involvement of President Donald Trump’s campaign with the Russian government.” Nothing wrong with that statement in itself, but did you note the use of the qualifier “possible” to weaken its impact? At this stage of the game yet? And he almost immediately qualified his dedication to finding the truth in three ways that, parsed carefully, make it clear that he is not really interested in what Trump actually did or didn’t do:
Roy Blunt sees no evil if it comes wrapped in dollar bills:
First, Blunt asserted that, although the entire situation with its suggestion of unsavory business contacts reeks of ill-gotten gains, money laundering and influence peddling, “following the money” should be off limits:
Blunt told MSNBC’s Chuck Todd Wednesday afternoon that the Intelligence committee, which he sits on, shouldn’t examine financial ties between Russian and the Trump campaign organization.
“I wouldn’t think so” said Blunt. “I would think that the intel committee, when we get this more pressing issue of Russian involvement in the election, and any involvement that others had with them, if that turns out to be the case, I thinks that’s got to be the top priority.”
Blunt, evidently, doesn’t think it’s remotely possible that there’s a financial angle to the corruption of our electoral process by Russia, and, if there is, it shouldn’t be of interest to the committee investigating said corruption. Whose leg is Blunt trying to pull anyway? Given his glory days in the House of representatives where he served to great renown as corruption meister, Tom DeLay’s, chief GOP bagman, he surely recognizes the stench that often arises at the intersection of money and power.
It’s now well-established that the powerful President of Russia directed an extensive and sophisticated intervention in the 2016 U.S. election. This intervention was intended to aid the candidacy of Donald Trump, a man who has shown himself willing to use the Presidency to line his own pockets, hides his tax returns, and who, according to all indications, has had shady dealings, likely of a financial nature, with the new, gangster-style Russian oligarchy. Evidently Roy Blunt hasn’t heard of kompromat. Yet Roy Blunt sees no potential in pursuing the financial issues.
Roy Blunt would prefer to hear no evil:
After asserting that exploring the relationship between Trumpian corruption, possible Russian extortion, etc. should be off limits in the Intelligence Committee’s RussiaGate investigation, Blunt managed to declare that he wanted to cut off the information spout that led to the investigation in the first place:
Blunt wants the committee to expand its inquiry to find out who in the federal government is leaking classified and confidential information to the press.
“It’s within our responsibility as the intel committee in the Senate to look at the leaks, to look at how secure our own national security structure is” Blunt told MSNBC. “That’s probably where we expand to.”
A number of Republicans have accused career government employees of trying to sabotage the Trump presidency with a flood of leaks.
Can you imagine folks so devoid of a moral center they think that it’s okay to ignore the crime and go after the whistleblowers – no matter that the “presidency” they may be “trying to sabotage” is clearly sinking under the weight of its own corruption and ineptitude? I can. We call them Republicans and that fact goes a long way toward explaining Blunt’s investigative druthers.
Roy Blunt will, though, speak a little backhanded evil :
Blunt was, however, unable to resist indulging in a little Schadenfreude on the topic of Trump, Inc. troubles. The consummate insider just couldn’t resist having a little fun at the expense of the bumbling reality star and his stable of incompetents who are mucking up the business of government after bad-mouthing pros such as Blunt:
Blunt doesn’t think the Trump campaign had the political experience to entertain the notion of collusion. “What you had in the Trump campaign was a candidate who had figured out the exact communicating spot to be with the American people in 2016, and a campaign around him that I was never sure had the capacity to collude with the Republican National Committee, let alone anybody else” said Blunt on MSNBC.
Well of course they didn’t. That’s why they’re in the hot seat now. The New York Post said it best when it proclaimed in an editorial headline that Donald Trump Jr. is an idiot. Apropos of which, it’s clear that Trump Jr. is his father’s son, and that, as far as their team goes, like attracts like. Neither incompetence or stupidity, however, is a defense.
Several commentators have also brought up the lack of a “moral compass” when discussing Trump’s campaign machinations. Perhaps congressmen like Senator Blunt, who clearly understand how huge the stakes are for the country, might be said to lack the same accoutrement as well when they show themselves willing to hedge and deflect serious issues surrounding our openly compromised president in order to preserve the advantages of partisan power
*First two paragraphs revised for stylistic and clarity reasons.