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More Butina Notes: SD FBI Agent Communicated with Accused Spy Pre-Arrest; Torshin Wrote Recommendation Letters to Columbia & Harvard

I cannot bear to watch ABC’s full video of Paul Erickson and Maria Butina singing “Beauty and the Beast” together. Can’t, won’t, no, never….

But I can read the court documents in which the attentive Seth Tupper finds that accused (ah, our formal pretense!) Russian agent Maria Butina was communicating with South Dakota FBI agent Matthew Miller prior to her July 15 arrest:

The court documents include an email in which Butina’s attorney, Bob Driscoll, told a South Dakota FBI agent that Butina “has not told Paul she is talking to you.” In the same email, Driscoll warned the FBI agent that if Butina were to speak with the agent in South Dakota rather than in Washington, D.C., it would be “harder to keep Paul in the dark” [Seth Tupper, “Accused Russian Agent Maria Butina Was Talking to FBI in South Dakota,” Rapid City Journal, 2018.08.28].

Butina’s attorney, Robert Driscoll, filed this information and more in support of his claim that Butina is not a flight risk and his plea to the court to release Butina on bond and allow her to wait for further court hearing under electronic monitoring at home in D.C. Driscoll notes in his filing that “over a dozen FBI agents appeared at her door in tactical gear to search her apartment for hours” on April 25, 2018, “[y]et she did not flee.” Of course, arguing that Butina wasn’t a flight risk before she was arrested does little to prove, that now that the government has dropped the hammer on her, she wouldn’t try to flee that hammer back to Mother Russia. And given that Driscoll now tells AP that Butina knows “very little” about the fraud case the feds are pursuing in South Dakota, there’s less reason to believe that she has some information that she could use to plea her way out of her current charges and more reason to believe she might see a run to the Russian embassy as her only way out.

Driscoll also argues that the feds are using sexist smears to attack a woman of intellect and accomplishment:

Ms. Butina is an attractive young woman who has been in the media spotlight for some time, and, unfortunately, sexist stereotypes about her have proliferated– suggesting without evidence that her connections with certain Americans were made through sex, rather than through her intellect demonstrated by the fact that she, before the age of 30, obtained three Master’s Degrees, founded a significant civil society organization in Russia, and achieved almost a 4.0 in her Master’s Program at American University. There may not be anything that can be done about the media and popular culture’s sexist assumptions about this young woman, but AUSA Kenerson, the United States Attorney’s Office, and the National Security Division should be held to a higher standard and not fuel the sexist and misogynistic flames surrounding this case with baseless slurs and indignities [Robert Driscoll, “Memorandum in Support of Defendant Maria Butina’s Motion for Bond Review,” USA v. Butina, 2018.08.24].

In support of his claims that Butina is innocent, Driscoll submits her “handler” (Driscoll’s mock quotes) Alexander Torshin’s recommendation letter for Butina to Columbia University:

Alexander Torshin, recommendation letter for Maria Butina to Columbia University, filed by atty. Robert Driscoll in federal court, 2018.08.24.
Alexander Torshin, recommendation letter for Maria Butina to Columbia University, filed by atty. Robert Driscoll in federal court, 2018.08.24.

Torshin also wrote a recommendation for Butina to Harvard. Hmm… I’m not sure that showing a Russian government official’s integral role in an accused spy’s efforts to enter an American graduate school helps prove she wasn’t a Russian agent.

Driscoll is fighting hard for his client in court and in the press. But on August 23, the feds filed a letter accusing Butina’s attorney Robert Driscoll of multiple violations of Local Rule 57.7(b), which bars lawyers from arguing their clients’ cases in the press.


  1. marvin kammerer 2018-08-30 09:12

    let’s not forget the the mission i assume of the nra & maria. this makes the nra a an international operation whose goal is to facilitate the sale of weapons to any outfit with money!

  2. jerry 2018-08-30 09:26

    Did Comrade Dusty know that the NRA showed their involvement in the Russian schemes as well with interesting timing? Hard to say as he has previously been so captivated by her speaking and now we know, her caterwauling singing ability, that he just didn’t care. After all, he has more important things to think about rather than patriotism for this country. There is gold in them thar hills of Russia to be made and he and the NRA know this from the checks that have been written. I think he should be asked, each time we see him in public.

    “What wasn’t publicly known at the time was that on April 25—two weeks before this seemingly hasty NRA leadership makeover—FBI agents in tactical gear raided the apartment of Maria Butina, a 29-year-old Russian who three months later would be charged by federal prosecutors for allegedly serving as a secret agent for the Russian government in the United States. For years, Butina and her mentor, Alexander Torshin, a Russian official tied to Vladimir Putin, had hooked up with the NRA and other conservative groups, allegedly as part of what the Justice Department called a covert influence operation. Butina, who ran a gun rights group in Russia, and Torshin, who has been accused of money laundering (a charge he denies), had attended NRA events and other right-wing get-togethers, and during the 2016 campaign used their NRA contacts to try to arrange a meeting between Putin and Donald Trump. (It didn’t happen.) During this operation, according to prosecutors, Butina relied upon the assistance of conservative consultant Paul Erickson, her romantic partner and an active NRA member.” Mother Jones

    So there ya go. The NRA are racketeers with deep involvement with a hostile government called Russia, our sworn enemy.

  3. Debbo 2018-08-30 21:44

    Mike said, “Bob Dole? I thought he mummified decades ago.”

    He did. Have you seen a recent photo of him? 😲

  4. Donald Pay 2018-08-31 13:17

    I remember hearing about this couple that had just moved from a house about three blocks south of us in Pierre. It a two or three blocks farther south on the street from where Dusty Johnson grew up. The couple had been growing pot in their basement, something a number of folks did in the Janklow years. When Mickelson took over, there was a pretty stoned work force that had to get sober or get out. Anyway, this guy, apparently, turned out to be a Cuban spy. I never met him, but one of my South Dakota friends, Jay Davis, had, and he spilled some of his interaction with the guy to the New York Times. Thus, I was one degree of separation from traitors.

    Just think that when Trump comes to Sioux Falls, all those people in the room will be able to say to their grandchildren, “Yes, I was zero degrees of separation from a traitor.”

  5. mike from iowa 2018-08-31 14:10

    Drumpf’s a traitor alright. I did see a pic of Dole with the article. I swore it was a young Henry Fonda, Debbo.

  6. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-08-31 18:34

    Paul’s prison visit fits the narrative Butina’s counsel is trying to build: her relationship was real, not an affair of opportunity and part of her cover.

    Or maybe he just forgot the routing number to her Russian bank account.

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