Maria Butina, the 29-year-old accused spy, has pled not guilty to charges of conspiracy and illegally acting as an unregistered Russian agent. Damn.
At her two-hour hearing on Wednesday, prosecutors detailed how Butina infiltrated the inner circles of Republican elites and the National Rifle Association while maintaining deep ties to Russian officials, oligarchs, and intelligence officers, allegedly building influential relationships and networks in anticipation of the 2016 election. The New York Times led with a headline about how Butina, who enrolled at American University as a graduate student, used sex to gain access, writing: “Maria Butina, Suspected Secret Agent, Used Sex in Covert Plan, Prosecutors Say.” To which I say...no shit? I’ve seen the Americans, okay?
Also revealed during the hearing: Prosecutors say Butina moved in with a Republican political operative twice her age, though she privately expressed “disdain” for him...and made him do her homework for her. Court documents do not reveal her boyfriend’s identity, but the Times reports that he is “believed to be” 56-year-old Paul Erickson. Thanks to Erickson’s apparent homework help, Butina graduated with a 4.0:
Although her lawyer said Ms. Butina maintained a 4.0 average at American University, prosecutors described her graduate studies as her “cover.” She relied on Mr. Erickson to help her complete exams and assignments, they said. Although he is her closest tie to the United States, “she appears to treat that relationship as simply a necessary aspect of her activities,” the government’s memo said.
What a fitting love story for these bleak times.