Just when it seems the Maria Butina saga can’t get any stranger, it has. First there was the news last week that she was negotiating a plea deal. Then last night Team Trump floated the not-at-all-realistic notion of shipping her off to Russia in a spy swap. Then this afternoon the Trump-NRA election conspiracy got blown wide open. Now it turns out a judge is taking the rare step of making changes to Butina’s legal defense team.
After the judge held a conference call today with Maria Butina’s criminal defense attorneys, the judge decided to appoint a public defender to Butina’s legal team. No explanation was provided for the move, according to USA Today. Palmer Report has ben informed by a legal expert that there are at least two plausible explanations for this kind of move.
The first and most straightforward explanation would be that the defense attorneys aren’t equipped to negotiate a plea deal and need help. The second, scandalous explanation would be that the judge doesn’t trust that the defense attorneys are truly on the defendant’s side, and wants eyes and ears on them as Butina negotiates her deal.
We’ll have to wait a bit longer to find out which scenario we’re dealing with here. But either way, all signs point to Maria Butina cutting an imminent plea deal. By now she’s surely already conducted her proffer session and confessed to everything, so that prosecutors can get a grasp of how valuable she is, and how much leniency to offer her. In practical terms, once the proffer takes place, there’s virtually no going back.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report