Maria Butina is a Russian spy who has been accused of all kinds of nasty things. She is currently sitting in a federal prison awaiting trial. And as she does so, more information keeps surfacing concerning her illicit relationships with Republican operatives and office holders.
Butina has been closely linked to the National Rifle Association and to various leading GOP politicians, including Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.
And Butina’s boyfriend, GOP operative Paul Erickson, has been told he may face similar charges of acting as an agent illegally involved in espionage against the United States.
According to The Daily Beast, they have reviewed a “target letter” sent by federal law enforcement authorities to Erickson’s lawyer. The letter said the federal officials are planning to charge him with the crimes of operating as an agent of a foreign government, and for conspiracy against the United States.
The letter was to Erickson was just made public but it was actually sent to him in September.
If he is ultimately charged with a crime, according to the Daily Beast he would be the first American charged under the applicable law, Statute 951. This little-known law makes it a crime for Americans to serve as agents of any foreign government.
A source told The Daily Beast that federal law enforcement officers have spoken to people who know Erickson well, and some of them have met with the FBI and given them formal statements. The source said that Erickson’s contacts were asked about the GOP operative’s business dealings and his reputation in conservative political circles.
In a separate case, the U.S. attorney’s office in South Dakota is investigating Erickson for fraud. Several of his former business partners have filed complaints with law enforcement saying that he defrauded them.
South Dakota public records show Butina and Erickson established a company in 2016 together called Bridges LLC that lists its address at Erickson’s home and cites Butina as an authorized person for the company.
Erickson has also been interviewed by the staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee. That panel is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Erickson’s lawyer told the committee staff that his client would plead the Fifth Amendment if they try to force him to testify.
Butina has been in the news a lot in recent months. In September we reported:
“Accused Russian agent Maria Butina arranged a meeting between the National Rifle Association and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and shopped access to Russian President Vladimir Putin.”
Although Butina’s case seems to have been forgotten it is potentially very important. She may be able to prove an illegal espionage connection from Putin and the Russian government to the NRA and subsequently directly to leading members of the Republican Party, including President Donald Trump.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.