Here comes Maria Butina

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In something of a surprise move, the federal judge in the Maria Butina case has decided today to lift the gag order in the case, according to the publicly available docket listings. This was at Butina’s request, and federal prosecutors had strongly argued against it. So what happens now? Butina has been freed up to start talking – but perhaps not in the way that some observers are expecting.

Prosecutors had argued in court filings that they wanted Maria Butina to keep quiet publicly because they expect there to be “imminent” legal proceedings as a result of Butina’s cooperating plea deal. In other words, they’re about to arrest one of the people she sold out. That’s most likely her boyfriend Paul Erickson, who has reportedly already received a target letter, though that’s not a given. Nonetheless, Butina argued that she should be able to speak publicly about the case – and she won.

The thing is, this doesn’t free up Butina to begin saying anything she wants. She’s still bound by the rules of the court when it comes to what she can say about whatever legal proceedings she’s participating in. She’s also bound by the rules of her cooperating plea deal. Further, she knows she can’t afford to say anything that would cause such harm to prosecutors, they might be tempted to revoke her plea deal. So what’s she really trying to do here?


Maria Butina will answer that rather quickly, presumably by sending her attorney to talk to the media, now that the gag order has been lifted. Our guess is she wants to clarify that, while she did commit certain confessed crimes, she isn’t guilty of other things that have been speculated about in the media. In any case, we’re about to finally hear Butina speak about her role in the Trump-Russia scandal, even if it is through her surrogates.

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