Butina so successfully infiltrated the NRA, Republican politics and the Trump campaign in particular, Tim Mak at the The Daily Beast reported that just days after the 2016 election, Trump officials were at her birthday party in D.C.
Two of Butina’s friendships in particular have raised eyebrows. She started a business with Paul Erickson, a decades-long Republican Party activist. And she served as a special assistant to the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank, Alexander Torshin, a former Russian senator belonging to Vladimir Putin’s political party with alleged ties to the Russian mob world.
On Nov. 12, 2016, shortly after the election of President Donald Trump, Butina held a birthday party at Cafe Deluxe near American University, where she attends graduate school classes.
The event was a costume party attended by Trump campaign aides and Erickson, who told guests that he was on the Trump presidential transition team. She dressed as Russian Empress Alexandra while Erickson was dressed as Rasputin.
As chilled vodka flowed through an ice sculpture—a bottle imprinted with the Soviet hammer and sickle—she took some time to brag. She brazenly claimed that she had been part of the Trump campaign’s communications with Russia, two individuals who were present said. On other occasions, in one of her graduate classes, she repeated this claim.
In fact, Butina was at one of Donald Trump’s first campaign events in April 2015 and Donald Trump helpfully called on her in the audience. Watch the video below and listen as she asks Donald Trump about lifting sanctions on Russia.
The NRA spent an unprecedented $35 million to help elect Donald Trump. How much of this was funneled to the NRA from Maria Butina, Alexander Torshin and Vladmir Putin? NBC News noted in early May the NRA is intentionally secretive about how much they got from the Russians.
In the 2016 election cycle, the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action — its dark money affiliate — reported spending over $35 million on election-related activities (more than any other dark money group) without the reporting the source of its funds. Curiously, the ILA leapfrogged its way to the top of that list, after spending a mere $13 million the previous cycle and $9 million the cycle before that. We can only wonder where the influx of funds is coming from.
The NRA has, meanwhile, reportedly been subject to an FBI investigation concerning its Russian donors. (A spokesman for the organization stated that they have not been contacted by the FBI.) However, the NRA has had to revise its story on the matter of its Russian donors more than once.
Maria Butina and Alexander Torshin also paid for former Sheriff David Clarke to be wined and dined in Russia, which coincidentally happened the very same week RT paid for Jill Stein and Michael Flynn to dine with Putin.
As reporter Garrett Graff notes, this indictment seems to be an indicator that there is more coming.
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