Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Russian To Judgment, Con't

The Russian collusion guilty parade keeps on going, this time it's convicted Russian agent Maria Butina's American boyfriend Paul Erickson headed for the slammer.

Paul Erickson, the former boyfriend of convicted Russian agent Maria Butina, has pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering, according to a plea agreement filed in a South Dakota federal court Monday afternoon.

In a two-page statement detailing the factual basis for the plea, Erickson said he conned someone only identified as “D.G.” into wiring him $100,000 under the pretense that the money was for a real estate investment in North Dakota. As part of the plea filed in U.S. district court in South Dakota, Erickson admits the money was not for a real estate deal. He also notes that he wired $1,000 of the money to a person called “M.B.”

An attorney for Erickson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The case against Erickson, a well-known conservative operative who shuttled between Washington D.C. and South Dakota, was separate from the one lodged against Butina in Washington, D.C.

Butina, a Russian national who cultivated relationships with powerful American conservative activists including Erickson, pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate laws prohibiting covert foreign agents. As part of her agreement she has promised to cooperate with American law enforcement. She was deported earlier this year after serving a short prison sentence to her native Russia where she received a hero’s welcome.

Erickson is far from the only GOP operative "converted" by Butina and her jovial Russian friend Aleksandr Torshin.  She's neck deep in the NRA scandal and the fallout from that is still coming down as the lawsuits fly over the collapse of the NRA's digital media mess, the now bankrupted NRATV.

Last June, as the relationship deteriorated and legal fees mounted, the NRA finally shut down the streaming channel altogether and severed its ties with Ackerman. In a statement to members, LaPierre framed the cessation of live TV production as a "significant change in our communications strategy" that would help the organization refocus on its "core mission" of Second Amendment advocacy. In August, the NRA filed a federal lawsuit to try and force Ackerman to scrub evidence of its prior work for the NRA from its website, too—the legal equivalent of demanding that your ex delete every photo they posted of the two of you together in happier times.

Electing to fight fire with fire, Ackerman countersued, claiming that NRATV was made out to be a scapegoat for the NRA's mounting financial and legal difficulties. New York attorney general Letitia James, who called the NRA a "terrorist organization" on the campaign trail, opened an inquiry earlier this year into the organization's spending habits, allegedly spooking LaPierre and placing the nonprofit's coveted tax-exempt status in jeopardy. Around this time, congressional investigators and law enforcement officials were also carefully scrutinizing a 2015 trip that NRA board members took to Russia—a trip hosted by Maria Butina, the Russian spy who successfully leveraged her NRA connections to infiltrate U.S. conservative political circles before her arrest in 2018.

No, the Russian mess is very much still alive, and the investigations are far from over.

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