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Convicted Russian Influence Agent With Ties To US Republicans Becomes Russian MP

January 9th, 2022 15:13

US media report­ed in Novem­ber that a con­vict­ed Russ­ian influ­ence agent with strong ties to the Repub­li­can Par­ty and Don­ald Trump had become a mem­ber of the Russ­ian par­lia­ment. The Dai­ly Beast report details how Maria Buti­na used the Nation­al Rifle Asso­ci­a­tion (NRA) to cre­ate ille­gal back chan­nels between Rus­sia and the Trump pres­i­den­tial campaign:

Novem­ber 29, 2021 “Russ­ian spy” Maria Buti­na, who joined the ranks of the Russ­ian par­lia­ment last month, had an untra­di­tion­al rise. In 2018, she pled guilty to con­spir­a­cy to act as a for­eign agent after the FBI pre­sent­ed a case around her involve­ment in using the NRA to cre­ate ille­gal back chan­nels between Rus­sia and the Trump pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. Although the FBI’s affi­davit fails to prove Butina’s for­mal employ­ment by the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion, the doc­u­ment does paint a clear pic­ture of an ambi­tious young woman moti­vat­ed by pow­er. The evi­dence shows how Buti­na sought to influ­ence for­eign pol­i­cy due to her own ide­al­ism and desire to insin­u­ate her­self into elite net­works. Buti­na wasn’t hired by the Krem­lin to per­form an influ­ence cam­paign; she volunteered. […]

In 2011, Buti­na found­ed the gun rights orga­ni­za­tion, “Right to Bear Arms,” and soon after part­nered with the NRA. She was lat­er indict­ed for manip­u­lat­ing her rela­tion­ships with the NRA to influ­ence the 2016 US pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.  Before her impris­on­ment in 2019, Buti­na was suc­cess­ful in inti­mate­ly inte­grat­ing her­self in elite polit­i­cal net­works with­in both the Krem­lin and the Repub­li­can par­ty. She was men­tored by Alek­san­dr Tor­shin, a for­mer Deputy Gov­er­nor of the Cen­tral Bank of Rus­sia, and became involved in a roman­tic rela­tion­ship with Paul Erick­son, a for­mer US pres­i­den­tial cam­paign adviser.

Read the rest here.

The report notes that the ambigu­ous nature of Butina’s crime of “influ­enc­ing” sets a dan­ger­ous prece­dent for any for­eign nation­als who are net­work­ing in the USA, espe­cial­ly in times where the social media influ­encer mar­ket­ing indus­try is expect­ed to be worth up to $15 bil­lion in the Unit­ed States by 2022.