Russian operative Maria Butina has cut a cooperating plea deal today, after a few weeks of increasingly loud hints that she was planning to do so. This is bad news for Donald Trump, the NRA, John Bolton, Dana Rohrabacher, and a number of other people. But as it turns out, it’s really bad news for Butina’s handler in the Russian government.
By all accounts, Maria Butina was taking direct instructions from Vladimir Putin’s ally Aleksandr Torshin, who has previously held high positions in the Russian government, and has most recently been a top official in a Putin-controlled Russian bank. But ten days ago, just as news reports were getting louder that Butina was about to flip, Torshin quietly “resigned” from the bank out of the blue. Now Rachel Maddow is reporting on MSNBC that Torshin appears to have vanished entirely.
It’s not difficult to parse what’s happened here. The Russians realized that Maria Butina was about to begin giving people up, and Torshin is one of the top people involved in it. So either Torshin went into hiding out of fear of Putin, or Putin told him to go into hiding, or Putin had him killed. Take your pick, but one of Putin’s very top people in his own government was just essentially sacrificed.
This tells you just how costly and dangerous the Trump-Russia scandal is becoming on Vladimir Putin’s end. That’s before getting to whichever American participants were just given up by Maria Butina. It’s time for everyone in this scandal to panic.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report