Maria Butina is now a convicted Spy, but her full story is still developing.  What is known is her path leads through the NRA, directly to Donald Trump, JR, and into the Whitehouse.

Maria Butina Grew up in Braul, Russia, a rural area in Siberia, far from Moscow. She studied Political Science at Altai State University, and her interest in politics lead her to attend a pro-kremlin camp for up-and-coming young adults, called the Youth Guard of United Russia.  Interestingly, Anna Chapman, another Russian convicted of spying on the United States was appointed to the public counsel of the organization in 2010.

In 2011, Butina attracted the attention of Alexander Torshin, a Russian member of parliament, with questionable connections to Russian intelligence, and organized crime. Torshin would later leave parliament to become deputy governor of Russia’s Central Bank.  Torhsin has been connected to organized crime, by Spanish authorities, and he has close ties with a private security company ran by Col. Sergy Lysyuk, which uses the Vityaz, a name previously used by a Russian Special Forces Spetsnaz unit. The private company Vityaz has been implicated in off-the-book military operations, similar to Black water, in the United States.

Alexander Torshin on Left, Maria Butina Center, and Col. Sergy Lysuk on the left.
Picture taken from Maria Butina’s Social Media Accounts.

Maria Butina moved to Moscow to work for Torshin, and they created the “Right to Bear Arms”, a faux Russian equivalent to the NRA, even though there are no such equivalent gun rights in Russia. The purpose of the organization was to connect with the NRA, to infiltrate American Politics. In 2012, Torshin attend the NRA convention in St. Louis and he observed the US Presidential election, in Nashville. Later in May of 2013, he attend an NRA Convention in Houston.

Three months later, Spanish investigators attempt but fail to arrest Torshin for connection to Russian Organized Crime and money laundering.  A Spanish investigation connected Torshin with Alexander Romanov, the leader of the Tamboyskaya crime family. Romanov had been arrested in Spain and sentenced to four years in prison, in May 2016, for money laundering. Torshin was also implicated. According to Spanish police, he directed Romanov to launder money through banks and real estate in Spain. Spanish investigators concluded Torshin owned approximately 80% of the properties used to launder money, which were later confiscated. During their investigation, the Guardia Civil wiretapped Romanov’s phone and obtained 33 conversations with Torshin. During at least one phone call, Romanov refers to Torshin as “El Padrino.”, or Godfather.  The wire taps have been turned over to the FBI, and the lead Spanish Investigator, Jose Ginda, Stated “Mr. Trump’s son should be concerned”, Implying the information on the tapes implicates Donald Trump Jr. Spanish police had planned to arrest Torshin in 2013, when he arrived in Mallorca for a friend’s birthday, but Torshin appears to have been tipped off by the Russian government. Around the same time, John Bolton, now Secretary of State, made a bizarre video in support of Butina’s Right to Bear Arms group.

In 2014, Butina goes to the U.S. for the first time, after receiving a student visa, and she and Torshin attend and NRA Covention in Indianapolis. She resigns as leader of the Right to Bear Arms, and the following year, Torshin leaves Parlement to become Deputy Governor of Russia’s Centeral Bank. Butina becomes his assistsant. In 2015, Butina and Torshin attend an NRA convention in Nashville. Torshin has stated he met Donald Trump there, and Butina is on video questioning Trump at Freedomfest gun show in Las Vegas, asking him about US Sanctions. Butina meets many top Republican politicians at the event.

Maria Butina Questioning Trump at NRA event.

In December 2015, an NRA delegation including then Chief David Keene visits Russia for a conference organized by Butina’s group Right to Bear Arms. Many top members of the NRA attend, including Sheriff David Clarke, who would later participate in the RNC convention, and other Trump events. At the meeting, Butina meets Torshin’s NRA contacts. The delegation meets with Torshin, oligarchs, and top Russian Officials including Demitry Rogozin, a hardline deputy to Vladimir Putin, and head of Russia’s defense industry. Rogozin was, at the time, under U.S. Sanctions. After the meeting, Butina emailed Torshin, “We should let them express their gratitude now, we will put pressure on them quietly later.”

On June 15, 2016, Speaker Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarth (R-CA) are unknowingly recorded on an open Mike. During the exchange McCarthy says, “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump.”

Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarth on open mike

In 2016, Butina and Torshin attend the National Prayer Breakfast, and  Torshin later attends the NRA convention in Louisville.  Torshin meets Donald Trump Jr, at the breakfast.  She and Torshin exchange messages about contacts with Russian Intelligence, and a “back channel” to the U.S right wing, according to an FBI statement.  Alan Futerfas, an attorney representing Trump Jr. stated, Trump Jr., “was attending an NRA convention and having dinner when an acquaintance asked him to say hello to Torshin and made an introduction.” It is during this same time, the Spanish Police appear to have intercepted incriminated information regarding Donald Trump Jr, and Alexander Torshin, as part of their investigation in Spain.

As Butina’s contacts develop with the NRA, she begins a romantic relation with Paul Erikson, a GOP political operative with a shady background. Erikson, previously had a contract with the convicted political operative Jack Abramoff, to help lobby for an African dictator. He was having significant financial problems, resulting from questionable business practices, and he had multiple court judgments against him. During the 2016 campaign, he aided Butina, by utilizing his political connections. He contacted Rick Dearborn, and Jeff Sessions for advice on setting up a meeting between Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin. The subject line of the email was ” “Kremlin Connection.” When the FBI later searched Erikson’s home, they found a note which stated, “How to respond to FSB offer of employment.”

Maria Butina and Paul Erikson with a Right to Bear Arms banner in the background

Butina, also establish a direct connection with Trump advisory JD Gordon. The two exchanged several emails in September and October 2016, culminating in an invitation from Gordon to attend a concert by the rock band Styx in Washington. Gordon also invited Butina to attend his birthday party in late October of that year. Gordon served as Trump’s National Security Director for 6 months, during the Trump campaign. Emails obtained by the Washington Post show that Butina met Gordon at a party, at the Swiss ambassador’s residence on Sept. 29, 2016. Gordon told the post he had been invited to the party by Faith Whittlesy , the prominent Republican and former U.S. ambassador to Switzerland who died earlier this year.

During this same period, the NRA spent a record 55 million dollars on the 2016 election, including 30 million to support Trump, tripling its support for Mitt Romney in the 2012 campaign. The money was spent by the dark money arm of the NRA which is not required to disclose it’s donors. The FBI has been investigating whether Russian money was illegally used by the NRA. Recently the NRA has reported deep financial problems, and it appears their funding has rapidly dried up, after the elections. New reporting is also suggesting the Trump campaign coordinated illegal add buys with the NRA.