Maria Butina's Gross Old Boyfriend Is Too Dumb For Spying
Maria Butina's grifting, patsy boyfriend actually thought the 2015 NRA field trip to Russia with Sheriff David Clarke was like Nixon going to China. It would usher in a new era of GOP-Russian friendship to save the world from ... democracy, we guess?
The Daily Beast got a copy of an email sent by GOP operative Paul Erickson -- who received a target letter from the feds in December for his doing spy shit for Russia, allegedly -- to one of the Ammo Land ambassadors to the Kremlin.
As you know from your discussions with Maria Butina, she and Russian Central Bank Deputy Governor Alexander Torshin (but mostly Maria) have been slaving away for several months preparing a truly 'Nixon goes to China' itinerary for a senior NRA delegation to Moscow next month.
LOL, remember that fun time when Erickson left himself a note saying, "How to respond to FSB [the successor to the KGB] offer of employment?" And then the FBI raided his house and found it, along with the email from October 2016 where he bragged about "securing a VERY private line of communication between the Kremlin and key [unnamed political party] leaders through, of all conduits, the [unnamed gun-rights organization]."
What we're saying here is that Paul Erickson is possibly not smart enough to get away with serious criming such as might be required when you are literally sleeping with a Russian spy. Because voluminous digital correspondence where you describe her efforts and attribute them to her Kremlin-linked handler Alexander Torshin, who happens to be under massive American sanctions, is kinda shitty OPSEC, bruh!
As we discussed over lunch in Iowa, Russia believes that high level contacts with the NRA might be the BEST means of neutral introduction to either the next American President OR to a meaningful re-set in relations with the Congress under a (God forbid) President Clinton .... This simple good will trip would have enormous diplomatic consequences for a future U.S. / Russia bilateral relationship to the world.
Lordy, this dipshit thinks he's fucking Henry Kissinger!
In addition to that loon Clarke, the 2015 gunhumpers road trip included NRA mega-donor Joseph R. Gregory; then-NRA VP Pete Brownell, whose family licensed its name to Russian gun sellers; Outdoor Living channel owner Jim Liberatore, who dreamed of a documentary showcasing manly man Vladimir Putin performing feats of strength in the great outdoors; and former NRA president David Keene. Later Keene would wage a comically inept campaign to get into the oil export business with Butina, but in 2015, he was just the opinion editor of The Washington Times, trying to score an interview with Vladimir Putin.
[I]mpressing the NRA's Russian hosts is also the quickest way to secure a private interview with President Putin on behalf of David Keene and the Washington Times – a plum that was dangled in front of Keene by Torshin himself during a recent visit to Washington, DC ... High stakes all around.
Yes, Erickson literally wrote that, in an email. Now a person who knows his way around DC might start to get a little squicky at the prospect of a major American lobbying group playing matchmaker for its members and the leader of a hostile foreign power. And unlike Paul Erickson, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre is not A IDIOT. It's not totally clear why the NRA started to back away from this trip in 2015 -- did LaPierre perhaps grok that Butina was an obvious Russian spy? -- but The New York Times confirms that he ordered staff not to go, withdrew some NRA funding for the junket, and forced then-president Allan Cors to pull out citing a "chronic health problem."
Erickson was PISSED that Cors ditched the trip, just when they were on the verge of ... whatever crazy global alliance he thought he was birthing:
This has been a dream and happy burden for David Keene for a couple of years. JUST as the agenda was being finalized this week, President Cors announces–VERY privately–to David that a chronic health issue must now force Cors to abandon the trip. [...] This has caught Keene totally off guard and could have disastrous consequences for the trip—and for our young Maria and the future of her 'The Right to Bear Arms' organization. [...] Keene is so angry that he is close to ending his friendship with Cors over what Keene views as Cors' duplicity in keeping this health information from the powers that be.
For his part, Cors tells The Daily Beast, "I was, at the time, president of the NRA and Wayne did not want any misconception that this was an official trip. Frankly, I had similar concerns. Therefore, I gracefully bowed out."
Sadly, the diminished delegation never did get to meet with Vladimir Putin to push their various grifts. But they did score meetings with Torshin, foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, and then-deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin, who was under US sanction for Russia's Crimean invasion. And soon they'll get some good face time with politicians here in the good ol' US of A, since the Senate Finance and Intelligence Committees are investigating NRA ties to Russia, and House Democrats are raring to get cracking now that they have the gavel back. Maybe they can 'splain why, just two weeks after the FBI raided Maria Butina's apartment, intrepid traveller Pete Brownell resigned from the NRA presidency and was replaced by Ollie North, bypassing the entire leadership structure of the NRA, which usually elevates the VP into the top job after two terms. Prolly, just a coincidence, right?
For his part, Erickson is shocked, SHOCKED anyone would think the NRA would be associated with a dangerous character like Vladimir Putin, according to The Times:
Mr. Erickson's lawyer, William H. Hurd, had no comment on the email, but noted that his client had not gone on the trip and said, "Anyone who thinks that a freedom-loving group like the N.R.A. is going to get all cozy with Vladimir Putin is living in Fantasyland."
And before he could even hang up the phone, he was struck by a bolt of lightning from heaven, the end.
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.