Russian spy Maria Butina pleaded guilty today, entering into a cooperation agreement in exchange for a minimal sentence. This means she’s already given up everyone during her proffer session, though prosecutors won’t immediately reveal everyone she’s taken down with her, as they work to build criminal cases against them. That said, the court filing alone is enough to send shockwaves across the Donald Trump campaign, the Kremlin, the NRA, and the Republican Party.
Prosecutors used the Maria Butina hearing to accuse her boyfriend, Republican political operative Paul Erickson, of not only having abetted her espionage, but also of having served as a conduit between the Kremlin and the GOP. By rule, federal prosecutors can’t make these kinds of accusations against a third party in a court filing unless they’re sitting on what would generally be considered proof of that person’s guilt.
In other words, the Feds have Erickson nailed to the wall. Whether he realizes it yet or not, he’ll have little choice but to cut a plea deal and sell out the various Republican Party officials and politicians who were in on his plot. That’s going to take down a lot of people in the GOP. While Butina appeared to have specific male targets in the Republican Party, Erickson was a full-on party operative, meaning he likely looped in far more GOP figures.
This is before getting to Maria Butina’s close interactions with the NRA, which should expose the money trail from the Kremlin through the NRA to the Republican Party – so it’s time for NRA officials to panic. And then of course there is Butina’s Russian handler, Kremlin-controlled banker Alexander Torshin, who resigned from his bank and disappeared just as Butina was cutting her deal. Is he even still alive?
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report