Keep asking. Meanwhile…


Trump’s disastrous performance in Helsinki dominated the beginning of the week. The episode and its aftermath provided even more evidence that the Trump-Russia investigation is far from a “Witch Hunt” — and that the biggest witch may well turn out to be Trump himself.

By Friday, Rudy Giuliani offered the media a shiny object to distract from Trump’s exploding Russia problem: Giuliani’s comments about a recording between Trump and his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, waived Trump’s attorney-client privilege. The release of a single Cohen recording, together with Giuliani’s effort to spin its contents, is a classic Trump diversion.

Sandwiched between Helsinki and Rudy was Maria Butina’s arrest. She is charged with being a Russian spy. Butina and her boyfriend, Paul Erickson, have now earned their own, separate Trump-Russia Timeline name filters. Butina already had a “pop-up” bubble on the Timeline. Now Erickson gets one of those, too.

Maria Who?

Students of the Trump-Russia Timeline know about Butina. According to the recent criminal charges against her, since “at least March 2015,” she has worked with an named “RUSSIAN OFFICIAL” who matches the description of Alexander Torshin, a powerful Putin ally. Torshin has been in the Timeline’s sights for a long time.

What were Butina and the “RUSSIAN OFFICIAL” doing?

Executing a Russian campaign to influence Republican Party policies through the NRA.

Roll the Butina Tape

Grab a bucket of popcorn, go to the Trump-Russia Timeline, and click on Butina’s name. The resulting entries tell an incredible story. If an author submitted this outline of a manuscript for a proposed work of fiction, no book publisher would buy it. The saga seems too incredible to be believed. But according to the criminal charges against Butina, it’s all true. Here are just a few of the highlights:

November 2013: Butina meets Paul Erickson, a long-time GOP operative who is part of an NRA delegation visiting Moscow. Butina is in her 20s; Erickson is over 50. Previously, Butina had tried and failed — twice — to get a visa to enter the US. But after the NRA came to town, she obtained a temporary visa to attend the annual NRA convention in 2014.

— March 24, 2015: Butina forwards a proposal dubbed “Diplomacy” to an unnamed “US Person 1” whose description matches Erickson’s. “Diplomacy” has a straightforward goal: mount a Russian political influence campaign using the NRA to impact GOP policies.

— July 11, 2015: At a large Trump town hall rally in Las Vegas, Butina somehow reaches a microphone stand in the audience and asks Trump a loaded question: How would a Trump administration treat Russia? Trump answers that he’d get along with Putin and doesn’t think the US would need to continue the crippling sanctions against Russian.

— Aug. 4-6, 2015: Butina dines with “Russia’s favorite congressman,” Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) in Moscow. Rohrabacher also meets with Torshin.

— December 2015: Torshin and Butina host an NRA leadership delegation in Moscow.

— May 19-22, 2016: Butina had tried to arrange a private meeting between Torshin and Trump at the NRA’s annual convention in Louisville, but Torshin has to settle for dinner with Don Jr. instead.

— August 2016: With the help of “US Person 1” (likely Erickson), Butina obtains a student visa to study at American University in Washington, DC.

— September-October-November 2016: Butina continues her project — “Diplomacy.” In an Oct. 5 exchange with Torshin, Butina writes, “We made our bet.” A month later, they discuss how that bet had paid off. Together, they explore the need to get input from “our people” on Trump’s possible nominees for Secretary of State. At her birthday party shortly after the election, Butina boasts that she had been part of the Trump campaign’s line of communication with Moscow. Her paramour Erickson (ikely “US Person 1”), tells people that he’s on Trump’s transition team.

— Nov. 30, 2016: Butina writes to “US Person 1” about high level Russians “coming to establish a back channel of communication….”

— Jan 20, 2017: Butina attends one of Trump’s inaugural balls.

— April 25, 2018: The FBI executes a search warrant against Butina’s residence. Among the seized materials are photographs of Butina with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

The judge weighing the sufficiency of the evidence against Butina concluded that she presents such an extreme risk of flight that she must remain in jail pending trial. And now the Russian Foreign Ministry is launching a campaign to portray Butina as a martyr deserving freedom.

The charges against Butina refer to another person with whom she worked on the “Diplomacy” project — “US Person 2.” Soon the world will know the name of that traitor. Who is it? As Butina might say, “I’ve made my bet.”

This is real.

It has happened here — and it’s still happening.

And it’s not a drill.

Here’s a complete list of this week’s Trump-Russian Timeline updates:

NOVEMBER 2013: Erickson Meets Butina

MARCH 24, 2015: Butina Contacts ‘US Person 1’ About ‘Diplomacy’ Project

APR. 7, 2015: Butina and Torshin Meet with US Officials

APR. 10-12, 2015: Trump and Torshin at NRA Convention (revision of previous entry to add exact dates)

JUNE 12, 2015: Butina Publishes Article in The National Interest

JULY 11, 2015: Butina Asks Trump About Sanctions at Rally (revision of previous title to name Butina)

AUG. 4-6, 2015: Rohrabacher Meets With Torshin

FEB. 4, 2016: Butina and Torshin Attend National Prayer Breakfast

MARCH 10-11, 2016: Butina Works With ‘US Person 1’; Thanks ‘US Person 2’ for Helping US-Russia Relations

APRIL 27, 2016: Trump Delivers First Major Foreign Policy Speech (revision of previous entry)

AUGUST 2016: Butina Enters US on Student Visa

SEPT. 16, 2016: Butina Tries to Schedule ‘Friendship and Dialogue’ Dinner

OCT. 4, 2016: ‘US Person 1’ Writes About Private Line of Communication with Kremlin

OCT. 5, 2016: Butina and ‘RUSSIAN OFFICIAL’ Exchange Messages: ‘We Made Our Bet’

OCT. 6-7, 2016: Intelligence Community Publishes Statement on Russian Interference (revision of previous entry)

NOV. 8-9, 2016: Butina: ‘I Am Ready For Further Orders’

NOV. 11, 2016: Butina Asks for Russian Reaction to Trump’s Possible Secretary of State Nominee

NOV. 12, 2016: Butina Boasts About Her Contacts with Trump Campaign

NOV. 30, 2016: Butina Writes About Establishing US-Russia ‘Back Channel’

JAN. 6, 2017: Trump Receives Intelligence Briefing That Details Putin’s Role in Election Interference; Meets Comey for the First Time (revision of previous entry)

FEB. 2, 2017: Butina and Torshin Attend National Prayer Breakfast

APRIL 25, 2018: FBI Searches Butina’s Residence

JULY 15, 2018: Butina Arrested

JULY 16, 2018: Trump Sides with Putin in Helsinki

JULY 17, 2018: Trump Tweets About NATO/Putin Success, Quotes Paul on ‘Partisan Investigations’/Putin

JULY 17, 2018: Trump Responds to International Bipartisan Criticism

JULY 17, 2018: Judge Denies Manafort’s Motion to Move Trial Venue

JULY 17, 2018: Grand Jury Indicts Butina

JULY 18, 2018: Trump Tweets About Success With Putin

JULY 18, 2018: Trump Denies That Russia Is Still Attacking US; Sarah Sanders Says Trump Didn’t

JULY 18, 2018: Butina Held Without Bail Pending Trial

JULY 18-19, 2018: NYT Details Trump’s Knowledge of Putin Election Interference; Trump Tweets

JULY 19, 2018: Putin Says He Proposed ‘Peace Plan’ to Trump

JULY 19, 2018: Trump Invites Putin to White House

JULY 19, 2018: Russian Foreign Ministry: ‘Free Maria Butina’

JULY 19, 2018: Rosenstein: DOJ To Issue Alerts to Targets of Foreign Hackers

JULY 20, 2018: Trump Rejects Putin’s ‘Peace Plan’

JULY 20, 2018: Trump Tweets and Retweets

JULY 20, 2018: Treasury Willing to Lift Sanctions on Rusal

JULY 21, 2018: Trump Tweets ‘Rigged Witch Hunt’, ‘No Collusion’, ‘No Obstruction’

JULY 21, 2018: DOJ Releases FISA Application Relating to Page

JULY 22-23, 2018: Trump Tweets Lies About FISA Warrant

JULY 22-23: Trump Tweets About Putin Meeting





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