The Russia scandal heated up this past Sunday when Maria Butina was arrested and sent to jail in the United States. She’s a Russian national who worked with Kremlin official Alexander Torshin and a pair of not presently identified Americans as a secret asset of the Russian government, aiming to mold U.S. policy to be more in the Kremlin’s favor through relationships with interests like the National Rifle Association.
Now, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has responded to Butina’s jailing in predictable fashion, pushing U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for her release in a phone conversation on Saturday. Lavrov claimed Butina to have been taken into custody “on the basis of fabricated charges.” The government, to be clear, is in possession of communications confirming that Torshin acted as an intermediary between his and Butina’s efforts in the U.S. and the Russian government, and Butina is believed to have her own connections to Russian intelligence services.
The phone conversation between Pompeo and Lavrov came just days after the leaders of the respective countries met one-on-one for the first time in Helinski, Finland. While there, Trump attracted intense scrutiny thanks to kowtowing before Putin; he claimed to find no reason to believe Russia to have meddled in the 2016 U.S. elections before withdrawing that statement and chalking it up to a grammar mistake on Tuesday.
In an alternate universe, the push from Lavrov for a suspected Russian agent to be released from prison would not find reception in the U.S. government. However, it’s worth noting that Trump has personally established a relationship with Lavrov in the past and proven interested in impressing him. He revealed top secret intelligence to Lavrov and then-Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak during a meeting in the Oval Office last year.
Trump has yet to push for Butina to be released, but it doesn’t seem beyond him. He’s sought to ignore ramifications of other facets of Russian aggression in the past through such means as having recently called for Russia to be accepted back into the G7 group of nations. His call ignored the fact that Russia was pushed out because of their seizure of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and that situation has not been rectified.
Butina’s situation remains precarious because she’s considered a flight risk; if authorities release her from prison, it’s not as though they expect her to happily show back up for a court date.
Her and Torshin’s prior activities included outreach to the Trump team itself through contacts with the National Rifle Association. Torshin, who was formerly a member of the Russian legislature and now works at Russia’s Central Bank, was unable to successfully rope in Trump for a meeting, only getting as far as a brief in person interaction with Donald Trump Jr. Butina, on the other hand, at one point got so far as to ask Trump a question during a conference, besides photos she took with an array of other prominent Republicans.
They didn’t work alone in their efforts to mold the face of U.S. policy to be more to Russia’s liking. Just recently, Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted twelve Russian intelligence officers for crimes linked to their cyberwar against the Democratic Party — and Trump still maintains that the whole thing is a “witch hunt.”
Featured Image via YouTube screenshot