It was just a couple days ago that Russian spy Maria Butina pleaded guilty and formalized a full cooperation deal with federal prosecutors. In a sign of just how important her role is in unraveling the Trump-Russia scandal, according to NPR, the Feds are already preparing to have her testify to the grand jury. The question, of course, is who all she’s going to sell out – and what that’ll mean for the Trump-Russia probe.
This week’s Maria Butina court filings only clearly identify two people. One is Russian banker Alexander Torshin, a close ally of Vladimir Putin, who mysteriously disappeared just as Butina’s deal was being negotiated. The Feds could be looking to indict him from afar in order to establish a criminal conspiracy which can then be expanded to include Americans. But the more likely initial target is the other person named in the filings, Republican operative Paul Erickson, who is (or was) Butina’s boyfriend.
Erickson may not sound like a crucial target, but that’s only because most of the public hasn’t heard of him. He’s a behind the scenes guy who has run campaigns for Republican candidates and other similar roles. The filings allege that Erickson was serving as a conduit between the Kremlin, the NRA, and the Republican Party. Butina’s testimony against Erickson could leave him with no choice but to cut a plea deal of his own, and he would have to give up everyone in the GOP and NRA who was knowingly working with the Kremlin through his channels.
It’s still not clear how Maria Butina connects back to Donald Trump and his campaign. For instance the NRA, which claims to be broke, somehow had $30 million to spend on pro-Trump advertisements during the 2016 election. Butina also had social interactions with multiple big name Republicans including Scott Walker, John Bolton, and Dana Rohrabacher. What went on between them? Did they know she was a Russian spy? We’ll find out soon enough.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report