Tag Archives: Russia

Maria Butina, who bragged she was ‘a channel between Team Trump and the Kremlin,’ enters into a cooperation agreement with DOJ (Updated)

ABC News was first to report that Maria Butina, accused Russian agent, reaches plea deal with prosecutors that includes cooperation.

She admits, as part of the deal, according to a copy obtained by ABC News that is expected to be filed to the court, that she and an unnamed “U.S. Person 1,” which sources have identified as longtime Republican operative Paul Erickson, with whom she had a multiyear romantic relationship, “agreed and conspired, with a Russian government official (“Russian Official”) and at least one other person, for Butina to act in the United States under the direction of Russian Official without prior notification to the Attorney General.”

Based on the description, the “Russian Official” appears to be Alexander Torshin, deputy governor of the Russian Central Bank and a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Under his direction, the agreement said, she “sought to establish unofficial lines of communication with Americans having power and influence over U.S. politics.”

The agreement, which Butina signed on Saturday, Dec. 8, also notes that the conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison, but the deal could see Butina receive a lesser sentence, depending on the level of her cooperation, before likely being deported back to Russia.

It is unclear what Butina’s cooperation might entail, but federal prosecutors have reportedly notified Erickson that he is a target of an ongoing investigation. The target letter sent to Erickson is from federal prosecutors in Washington, sources familiar with the case told ABC News, and separate from any South Dakota-based federal fraud investigation into his business dealings that has been the subject of earlier media reports.

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TIME Person of The Year: The Guardians (Journalists)

TIME magazine has named its person of the year, and it is collectively journalists who have been murdered or imprisoned in pursuit of the truth. The Guardians And The War on Truth:

Murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the Capital Gazette newspaper staff, which lost five members in a newsroom shooting this year; jailed Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, imprisoned in Myanmar for their coverage of the Rohingya crisis; and Filipino journalist Maria Ressa, who was arrested after criticizing President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.

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As TIME reports:

Every detail of Jamal Khashoggi’s killing made it a sensation: the time stamp on the surveillance video that captured the Saudi journalist entering his country’s Istanbul consulate on Oct. 2; the taxiway images of the private jets bearing his assassins; the bone saw; the reports of his final words, “I can’t breathe,” recorded on audio as the life was choked from him.

But the crime would not have remained atop the world news for two months if not for the epic themes that Khashoggi himself was ever alert to, and spent his life placing before the public. His death laid bare the true nature of a smiling prince, the utter absence of morality in the Saudi-U.S. alliance and—in the cascade of news feeds and alerts, posts and shares and links—the centrality of the question Khashoggi was killed over: Whom do you trust to tell the story?

Khashoggi put his faith in bearing witness. He put it in the field reporting he had done since youth, in the newspaper editorship he was forced out of and in the columns he wrote from lonely exile. “Must we choose,” he asked in the Washington Post in May, “between movie theaters and our rights as citizens to speak out, whether in support of or critical of our government’s actions?” Khashoggi had fled his homeland last year even though he actually supported much of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s agenda in Saudi Arabia. What irked the kingdom and marked the journalist for death was Khashoggi’s insistence on coming to that conclusion on his own, tempering it with troubling facts and trusting the public to think for itself.

Such independence is no small thing. It marks the distinction between tyranny and democracy. And in a world where budding authoritarians have advanced by blurring the difference, there was a clarity in the spectacle of a tyrant’s fury visited upon a man armed only with a pen. Because the strongmen of the world only look strong. All despots live in fear of their people. To see genuine strength, look to the spaces where individuals dare to describe what’s going on in front of them.

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Russian spy in the NRA to plead guilty, her American boyfriend receives a ‘target letter’

Alleged Russian agent Maria Butina is likely to plead guilty as soon as this week, according to court papers filed Monday, NBC reports. Accused Russian agent Maria Butina likely to plead guilty:

Lawyers for Butina and the Justice Department say in the court filing that her criminal case has been “resolved.”

The two sides have been negotiating a possible plea deal in recent weeks.

Butina, 30, is accused of acting as an agent of Russia in the Washington, D.C. area and faces charges of conspiracy and failing to register as a foreign agent.

She was arrested in July for allegedly conspiring to infiltrate politically powerful U.S. organizations, including the NRA, in an effort to push Moscow’s agenda.

Prosecutors say that Butina’s covert work was directed by Alexander Torshin, a former Russian senator and deputy head of Russia’s central bank who is close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and who was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in April 2018 along with several other Russian oligarchs.

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The path forward is clear: impeachment is coming

The Department of Justice reaffirmed on Friday that the President of the United States is an unindicted co-conspirator who coordinated with and directed Michael Flynn to commit criminal felonies on his behalf as his proxy.  The Special Counsel also gave a glimpse, without disclosing all his cards, that he has evidence of “political synergy” (collusion) between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

Americans elected a Russian asset and a criminal to the White House. It’s time to come to terms with this stark reality.

The path forward is clear: impeachment is coming.

The Washington Post reports, Court filings directly implicate Trump in efforts to buy women’s silence, reveal new contact between inner circle and Russian:

Federal prosecutors filed new court papers Friday directly implicating President Trump in plans to buy women’s silence as far back as 2014 and offering new evidence of Russian efforts to forge a political alliance with Trump before he became president — disclosures that show the deepening political and legal morass enveloping the administration.

The separate filings came from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III Mueller Cohen Sentencing Memo (.pdf), and federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York  SDNY Cohen Sentencing Memo (.pdf) ahead of Wednesday’s sentencing of Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.

Taken together, the documents suggest that the president’s legal woes are far from over and reveal a previously unreported contact from a Russian to Trump’s inner circle during the campaign. But the documents do not answer the central question at the heart of Mueller’s work — whether the president or those around him conspired with the Kremlin.

The documents offer a scathing portrait of his former lawyer as a criminal who deserves little sympathy or mercy because he held back from telling the FBI everything he knew. For that reason, prosecutors said, he should be sentenced to “substantial” prison time, suggesting possibly 3½ years.

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Newsweek cover story: Here’s How Russia May Have Already Hacked the 2018 Midterm Elections

The cover story of Newsweek this week is a lengthy investigative report by David Freedman into Here’s How Russia May Have Already Hacked the 2018 Midterm Elections. Here are the opening graphs using Bucks County, Pennsylvania as an example:

It’s not easy to get in to see Diane Ellis-Marseglia, one of three commissioners who run Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Security is tight at the Government Administration Building on 55 East Court Street in Doylestown, a three-story brick structure with no windows, where she has an office. It also happens to be where officials retreat on election night to tally the votes recorded on the county’s 900 or so voting machines. Guards at the door X-ray bags and scan each visitor with a wand.

Unfortunately, Russian hackers won’t need to come calling on Election Day. Cyberexperts warn that they could use more sophisticated means of changing the outcomes of close races or sowing confusion in an effort to throw the U.S. elections into disrepute. The 2018 midterms offer a compelling target: a patchwork of 3,000 or so county governments that administer elections, often on a shoestring budget, many of them with outdated electronic voting machines vulnerable to manipulation. With Democrats on track to take control of the U.S. House of Representatives and perhaps even the Senate, the ­political stakes are high.

Russian hackers were notoriously active in the 2016 election. Although President Donald Trump disputes it, evidence suggests that they were responsible for breaking into the Democratic National Committee’s computers, according to U.S. intelligence reports. They ran a disinformation campaign on Facebook and Twitter. They also attacked voter registration databases in 21 states, election management systems in 39 states and at least one election software vendor—and that’s only what the government’s intelligence services know about.

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