What role did Maria Butina play in Donald Trump’s 2016 victory in Wisconsin?

Donald Trump’s surprise 2016 win in Wisconsin marked the first time the Badger State went red since Ronald Reagan’s re-election. The closeness of his win – just enough to avoid a recount – made observers suspicious for good reason, as the Mueller report made clear. However, ties between Russia and the Wisconsin GOP are much more substantial than just what’s in the report, and we are just now seeing the tip of the iceberg.

Maria Butina made headlines this winter when she pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges, acting as an unregistered foreign agent with the NRA. In addition to organizing meetings between the NRA and gun rights officials, she attended events for former Wisconsin governor and 2016 presidential candidate Scott Walker. She’s being sentenced this week and the chats will be made public after April 26.

Although Walker dropped out early in the primary season, Butina continued to establish lines of communication between the NRA and Moscow – efforts that Wisconsin politicians like former House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senator Ron Johnson were well aware of. Both men were in the “Gang of 12” organized by President Obama and briefed on Russian cyber attacks in the summer of 2016. Johnson served at the time as the Senate Chair of Homeland Security. Rather than warn his constituents that they were being manipulated by a hostile foreign power, he continued to deny intelligence reports he was being given – and even felt complacent enough to visit the Russians on July 4th last year, leading up to Donald Trump’s Helsinki summit.

The more you look, the clearer the reason that Republicans are so quick to try to move on from the Trump-Russia scandal. They’re benefitting from relations with Russia and they know it. Considering former Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke’s visit to Moscow during the election, and Paul Ryan’s recent retirement, it’s probably time to ask what Wisconsin Republicans know – and have known over the last four years that we don’t – and time for them to testify before Congress.

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