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Government erred in claiming accused Russian spy Maria Butina offered to trade sex for political access

(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.

In the meantime, she has been kept in solitary confinement and been denied access to an Orthodox priest.

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).

 
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  1. Hokie says:

    Isn’t the rest of case against her and Erickson still solid though? Her boyfriend was considering an offer to work for FSB, and his texts show that he was claiming that he could arrange for a meeting with Putin through the NRA.

    Seems doubtful that there was any organized plot to subvert American democracy, but does appear that there is enough to convict them for violating anti-lobbying laws that are only enforced on those whom the US government loathes.

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  2. Mikhail says: • Website

    Lawfare

    The politically correct blowhards don’t address questions like these:

    - Does Maria Butina’s case suggest more of a human rights violation when compared to that of Oleg Sentsov?

    - Is Sentsov’s case more indicative of a human rights violation than what Kirill Vyshinsky faces?

    Note how Fox News shows concern for Paul Manafort (who contrary to some was never some sort of a Russian government mole) unlike Butina. Likewise with CNN’s and MSNBC’s concern for illegal aliens in the US.

    Comparative political analysis at its best.

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  3. Taras77 says:

    It is remarkable in a very negative sense how the russiagate hysteria has affected normal standards of investigation-it shows how intensively corrupt the fbi and doj is. I would believe that third world latin american military dictatorships would reflect higher standards.

    In many respects, america has become one of those thired world military dictatorships.

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  4. DFH says:

    Those reddit posts are unhinged.

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  5. Beckow says:

    …who managed to get herself reported to the authorities for her by her fellow students at the American University…

    When did American University opened their campus in Havana? But good to see the ‘fellow students’ are vigilant.

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  6. 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).

    This will tell us a great deal about the influence of the American MSM. The six companies which control 90% of media outlets have been uniformly Russophobic. If the jurors follow them, conviction is certain. If they don’t, then the conclusion is more optimistic: that most of the jurors are not being influenced and are getting their news elsewhere.
    As Paul Craig Roberts might put it: will the jurors be insouciant or not?

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  7. neutral says:

    I can’t think of a better example of anarcho tyranny than this story.

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    • Replies: @DFH
    The guy who hit Kessler getting a $1 fine tops it
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  8. Sean says:

    [MORE]

    managed to get herself reported to the authorities for her by her fellow students at the American University on account of her excessive Russophilia and Putinophilia).

    The “for her ” is redundant.

    So what is the correct response in neoliberalism.txt world to politicized persecutions of Russian cities?

    citizens.

    AK: Thanks.

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  9. Tulip says:

    Maybe she should change her name to Dreyfus?

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  10. DFH says:
    @neutral
    I can't think of a better example of anarcho tyranny than this story.

    The guy who hit Kessler getting a $1 fine tops it

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    • Agree: reiner Tor
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  11. ERM says:

    In fairness, the State Department is so indifferent verging on actively hostile to American expats it makes sense the government views Russian foreign officials taking an interest as a sign of guilt. They themselves would never do anything for a non-USGOV-agent locked up abroad except to use as a political weapon.

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  12. Anonymous[652] • Disclaimer says:

    Butina was clearly acting, unregistered, as an agent for Torshin. She was more or less open about doing so. Selective prosecution to be sure, a scapegoat most definitely, but she did break the law (albeit unknowingly and with no malign intent).

    The idea that she’s some kind of an official spy/trained GRU operative is completely absurd.

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  13. Sean says:

    I expect they are giving her the sleep eprevation treatment ander the guise of having the lights on for security and suicide watch. Next they will get her taking drugs to sleep. The tell tale sign is she will get fat.

    Amanda Knox was given the night off from a bar job via a text message from her employer. She replied “OK see you later” which the police insisted was a arrangement to meet on the night of the murder.

    Knox stated, “they said they were convinced that I was protecting someone. They were saying ‘Who is it? Who is it?’ They were saying: ‘Here’s the message on your telephone, you wanted to meet up with him, you are a stupid liar.” Knox also said that a policewoman “was saying ‘Come on, come on, remember’ and then – slap – she hit me. Then ‘come on, come on’ and – slap – another one

    The prosecutors in Perugia had earlier made headlines with an investigation onto a nigh level Satanic conspiracy. A charge originated by Perugia prosecutors resulted in the 2002 conviction of former Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti for ordering the murder of a journalist, and led to complaints that the justice system had “gone mad”. The Supreme Court took the unusual step of definitively acquitting him the next year. The FBI are America’s answer to the Perugia murder squad and prosecuters. But Knox had translated the colloquial English phrase “See you later” into Italian, so it was more understandable that Italians would misunderstand.

    I would expect FBI counter intelligence agents to be a bit better at understanding their first language and humorous remarks in in it. Apparently the FBI are trained to associate all Russian women who look twice at a Westerner with graduates of the KGB Academy’s course in sexual athletics.

    Cross my heart and hope to die, I am not a Russian spy.

    https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-39863781

    She says the accusation that she recruited Flynn – under the eyes of a former head of MI6 and the official historian of MI5 – is ludicrous. “Apparently I managed to turn General Flynn in 15 minutes with a postcard which Josef Stalin sent in 1912,” she says. “If I did recruit Flynn that would have been one of the greatest – if not the greatest – Russian coup of all times. So it is utterly ridiculous, totally unbelievable. But, for some reason, the world today is such that people buy it.” Lokhova was born in Russia but took British citizenship soon after coming to the UK in 1998 (whilst retaining her Russian citizenship). “I am British and I have a British passport… If I were indeed a Russian spy that would make me a traitor… For me, it’s very normal to have contact with current and former intelligence officials because of the field I am in,” she says, denying reports she has any kind of “special access” to Russian intelligence archives. “It is absolutely not the case,” she says.

    Flynn, who actually knows something about killing terrorists and getting them to talk rather than arming them like the CIA and State department, wanted to have the DIA become a rival of the CIA. The CIA got Flynn sacked as head of the DIA in 2013 and were never going to let him come back as Trump’s top adviser. A lot of Russiagate was rooted in CIA contempt for the military, a bit like the way the KGB looked down on the GRU. Of course the GRU thought the KGB was completely ignorant of military matters. It was the same with the US Joint Cheifs especially Dempsey allying with Flynn at the DIA to sabotage the CIA and state over Syria. John McCain said Dempsey was the worst head of the Joint Chiefs ever.

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    • Replies: @Verymuchalive
    Remarkably cogent summary. Keep it up.
    Never mind if they dope Butina, of more import: will the jurors be doped.
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  14. @Sean
    I expect they are giving her the sleep eprevation treatment ander the guise of having the lights on for security and suicide watch. Next they will get her taking drugs to sleep. The tell tale sign is she will get fat.

    Amanda Knox was given the night off from a bar job via a text message from her employer. She replied "OK see you later" which the police insisted was a arrangement to meet on the night of the murder.

    Knox stated, "they said they were convinced that I was protecting someone. They were saying 'Who is it? Who is it?' They were saying: 'Here's the message on your telephone, you wanted to meet up with him, you are a stupid liar." Knox also said that a policewoman "was saying 'Come on, come on, remember' and then – slap – she hit me. Then 'come on, come on' and – slap – another one
     
    The prosecutors in Perugia had earlier made headlines with an investigation onto a nigh level Satanic conspiracy. A charge originated by Perugia prosecutors resulted in the 2002 conviction of former Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti for ordering the murder of a journalist, and led to complaints that the justice system had "gone mad". The Supreme Court took the unusual step of definitively acquitting him the next year. The FBI are America's answer to the Perugia murder squad and prosecuters. But Knox had translated the colloquial English phrase "See you later" into Italian, so it was more understandable that Italians would misunderstand.

    I would expect FBI counter intelligence agents to be a bit better at understanding their first language and humorous remarks in in it. Apparently the FBI are trained to associate all Russian women who look twice at a Westerner with graduates of the KGB Academy's course in sexual athletics.

    Cross my heart and hope to die, I am not a Russian spy.


    https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-39863781

    She says the accusation that she recruited Flynn - under the eyes of a former head of MI6 and the official historian of MI5 - is ludicrous. "Apparently I managed to turn General Flynn in 15 minutes with a postcard which Josef Stalin sent in 1912," she says. "If I did recruit Flynn that would have been one of the greatest - if not the greatest - Russian coup of all times. So it is utterly ridiculous, totally unbelievable. But, for some reason, the world today is such that people buy it." Lokhova was born in Russia but took British citizenship soon after coming to the UK in 1998 (whilst retaining her Russian citizenship). "I am British and I have a British passport… If I were indeed a Russian spy that would make me a traitor… For me, it's very normal to have contact with current and former intelligence officials because of the field I am in," she says, denying reports she has any kind of "special access" to Russian intelligence archives. "It is absolutely not the case," she says.
     
    Flynn, who actually knows something about killing terrorists and getting them to talk rather than arming them like the CIA and State department, wanted to have the DIA become a rival of the CIA. The CIA got Flynn sacked as head of the DIA in 2013 and were never going to let him come back as Trump's top adviser. A lot of Russiagate was rooted in CIA contempt for the military, a bit like the way the KGB looked down on the GRU. Of course the GRU thought the KGB was completely ignorant of military matters. It was the same with the US Joint Cheifs especially Dempsey allying with Flynn at the DIA to sabotage the CIA and state over Syria. John McCain said Dempsey was the worst head of the Joint Chiefs ever.

    Remarkably cogent summary. Keep it up.
    Never mind if they dope Butina, of more import: will the jurors be doped.

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    • Replies: @Sean
    I think her being out in a year or two is likely, but she will never be the same again, Knox wasn't (bursting into tears for no reason ect). I dare say John McCain was quite sane before incarceration. Thank God for the vile slanders that let Bush defeat him in the primaries. The Joint Chiefs would probably have ended up having to draw lots for who would frag McCain in order to prevent WW3.
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  15. Sean says:
    @Verymuchalive
    Remarkably cogent summary. Keep it up.
    Never mind if they dope Butina, of more import: will the jurors be doped.

    I think her being out in a year or two is likely, but she will never be the same again, Knox wasn’t (bursting into tears for no reason ect). I dare say John McCain was quite sane before incarceration. Thank God for the vile slanders that let Bush defeat him in the primaries. The Joint Chiefs would probably have ended up having to draw lots for who would frag McCain in order to prevent WW3.

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  16. Anon[297] • Disclaimer says:

    As you can guess from the small number of comments, Karlin is barking at the wrong tree. o one, even here, give a damn about Butina.

    First, if an America would be captured in Russia, there would be noises, perhaps some diplomatic efforts, certainly some wailing in MSM, but the masses of American citizens wouldn’t care. After all, it’s the decision of that moronic pastor to swim into North Korea, and I hope he enjoyed the fruits of his travels. Similarly, I hope Butina understands, at least now, a few simple concepts, such as “friends in America”, “career in capitalism”, “networking”, “human right”, etc etc.

    Second, save for a minority of rich, well-connected Jews, there is no peace for the Russian in America. I am certain that their employment in IT has sunk, and the few surviving emigres will be kicked out for perceived risk of spying, or even for bad manners. Why take the chance? Most of the IT giant already make huge profits on milking contracts with DoD, NIH, and other state agencies. For the others, who are not even as useful, the only jobs are those where even managers haven’t heard of Russia (MacD, Walmart, car sales). Wtf is wrong with these American-friendly Russians? They will be treated as enemies by the large majority of simpletons, which, for all intents and purposes, as nearly as bad as being put in camps, like Japanese during WWII.

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  17. anon[361] • Disclaimer says:

    As you can guess from the small number of comments, Karlin is barking at the wrong tree. o one, even here, give a damn about Butina.

    Well said. Among the 1/100 of Russians who heard about Butina case, very few would see her as a heroine.
    Just like all the Western communists who went to Soviet Union and ended in Gulag. No one missed them (maybe except their families). She wanted “American values”? She got her wish.

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