(CNN) Prosecutors said Friday that they misunderstood text messages used as the basis of a claim that Maria Butina offered to trade sex for access — an extraordinary admission that threatens to undercut the government’s cloak-and-dagger portrayal of the young Russian accused of working to infiltrate American political circles. …
The entire case is one big error, as I pointed out mere hours after Butina’s arrest.
Ironically, the Americans are prosecuting a Russian citizen who has helped spread American values in – or in the current rhetoric, exerted “foreign influence” on – domestic Russian affairs.
Nonetheless, ridiculous as this situation is, even this latest revelation does not fully clear her of charges that she was acting as an unregistered foreign agent (charges which, if true, would make her one of the most blatant and incompetent foreign agents in espionage history, who managed to get herself reported to the authorities by her fellow students at the American University on account of her excessive Russophilia and Putinophilia).
However, one of the central planks of the prosecution – that Maria Butina was exchanging sex for political access – has been demolished.
“I want the government’s walk back to get as much coverage, as prominently, as their initial false allegation,” said Robert Driscoll, Butina’s attorney.
I suspect Mr. Driscoll will be waiting a long time.
On the plus side, at least this has been widely reported, with the major MSM outlets running stories on it. However, public resonance has been muted. This news failed to even get onto the front page of Reddit, and was outright downvoted into negative territory by the Russiagate drone bots at /r/politics. The MSM has done too good a job of stirring up Russian spymania in general, and pleasuring themselves into images of Butina as a GOPe-slaying seductress in particular.
Butina has pleaded not guilty to charges that she was acting as an agent for the Russian government since her arrest in July. The about face by the government will likely take away little from the central case against Butina, which is bolstered by extensive communications she exchanged with her mentor, a Kremlin-linked banker, and meetings she had with officials from the National Rifle Association.
But the admission represents a victory for Butina’s defense team, which has attempted to soften the 29-year-old’s image and win her release from jail.
The accusation first made its way into the public eye eight pages into a July filing from the government that argued Butina was a flight risk and should be detained before trial.
“On at least one occasion, Butina offered an individual other than U.S. Person 1 sex in exchange for a position within a special interest organization,” prosecutors wrote in that filing, saying it supported the notion that her years-long relationship with Erickson was not legitimate, and merely cover that did “not represent a strong tie to the United States” that would prevent her from fleeing. …
Butina’s initial request to be released from custody was denied by a federal judge in July.
“The impact of this inflammatory allegation, which painted Ms. Butina as some type of Kremlin-trained seductress, or spy-novel honeypot character, trading sex for access and power, cannot be overstated,” Driscoll wrote in court documents last month.
The latter is particularly interesting in that it suggests that neoliberalism.txt’s Russia = Nazis equivalence also extends to Orthodoxy as a religion. Carl Bildt has done good work.
“The only evidence the government relied on for its explosive claim was an excerpt from an innocuous three-year-old text exchange” sent while in Russia between Butina and a “longtime friend” who ran public relations for the gun rights group she founded, Driscoll said.
After taking Butina’s car for an insurance inspection, the man, referred to by his initials, DK, texted Butina, “I don’t know what you owe me for this insurance they put me through the wringer,” according to the filing.
“Sex. Thank you so much. I have nothing else at all. Not a nickel to my name,” Butina replied — “jokingly” — her attorney wrote.
Butina later wrote that DK could “ask for anything,” adding, “That they hire you?”
The message was a taunt, meant as a “good-humored reminder that he already works for her gun rights organization, as well as advertising agency,” Driscoll wrote, demanding that prosecutors withdraw or strike the accusation.
It also becomes increasingly clear why the prosecution has sought to impose a gag order on lawyers defending Butina to prevent them from speaking to the public.
Prosecutors wrote in the filing that Russian government officials have made six consular visits to Butina while she is behind bars, and the Russian foreign minister has complained about the case on two occasions to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — actions that “confirmed her relationship with, and value to, her own government.”
The admission came amid a separate fight that has hung over the case for weeks — a proposed gag order that prosecutors want to prevent Butina’s attorney from speaking with the press in a way they say could prejudice a jury.
So what is the correct response in neoliberalism.txt world to politicized persecutions of Russian citizens? Ignoring it? Then again, I suppose that is the response they expect from banana republics, which Russia is as far as they’re concerned (“gas station of a country”).
Anyhow, if this isn’t clinging at straws, I don’t know what is – even if the terminal ROG theorists will happily lap it all up.
The only remaining question is whether American courts are still independent enough to resist deep state pressure and deliver a correct and speedy judgment (complete acquittal).