Earlier today, Palmer Report pointed out that we still don’t know precisely which serious criminal charges Michael Flynn would have been hit with, if he hadn’t pleaded out to a lesser charge before he could be indicted. One of the possibilities we listed: espionage. Now, like clockwork, we’re learning that someone in the Trump-Russia scandal is on the verge of being arrested for espionage.
Maria Butina, a Russian citizen, is still locked in an American prison while awaiting trial on charges of acting as an unregistered foreign agent of Russia in the United States. Her boyfriend, Republican operative Paul Erickson, hasn’t yet been arrested – but now the Feds have informed him that their intent is to arrest him on espionage charges. This is a big deal, obviously for him and his future, but also due to the broader Trump-Russia ramifications that come along with it.
The Section 951 charges being aimed at Erickson are far from the most serious espionage charges on the books, but they’re still espionage charges. This suggests that any and all other Republican political figures who plotted with Maria Butina against the United States will also face similar charges. We don’t know precisely who might be on that list.
Butina had dinner with Dana Rohrabacher and took a selfie with Scott Walker, for instance, and those aren’t crimes in and of themselves. But if Butina finalizes a plea deal as expected, Robert Mueller and the Feds will then know precisely what was going on – and we could be looking at a number of GOP politicians and operatives busted for espionage against the United States. Then there are the ramifications that hit closer to home for Donald Trump. Much closer to home.
If Paul Erickson was committing espionage by knowingly plotting against the U.S. with Russian government operative Maria Butina, was Donald Trump Jr committing espionage by knowingly plotting against the U.S. with Russian government operative Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower? Jared Kushner was in that meeting as well. All this time we’ve wondered if Mueller would be able to get treason charges, which have a narrow definition (though not as narrow as most people think), to stick against the Trump family. He’ll have a much easier time getting espionage charges to stick.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report