Yesterday, Maria Butina pleaded guilty to conspiracy to act illegally as an unregistered Russian foreign agent. Since 2011, she has worked for Alexsandr Torshin, who was a former member of Vladimir Putin's United Russian Party.
Torshin started attending NRA meetings in 2011, and then-president David Keene attended a meeting of the Russian group "Right to Bear Arms" in Moscow in 2013.
In 2013, Butina met Republican political operative Paul Erickson in Russia. The two became close, started dating, and eventually moved in together. In 2015 she emailed him a description of her plan to help the Republicans win the 2016 elections through the National Rifle Association (NRA).
In 2015, a number of NRA officials attended Right to Bear Arms's annual gun conference in Russia. Among them were Keene, gun manufacturer and NRA first vice president Pete Brownell, conservative American political operative Paul Erickson, and Milwaukee County sheriff David Clarke. One of their hosts was Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who in 2014 was sanctioned by the White House following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Clarke's trip cost $40,000, with all expenses paid by the NRA, Pete Brownell (an NRA board member and CEO of a gun-parts supply company) and Right to Bear Arms. According to a disclosure Clarke filed, Right to Bear Arms paid $6,000 to cover his meals, lodging, transportation and other expenses. During the meeting, Clarke met the Russian foreign minister and attended a conference at which Torshin spoke. In November 2016, Torshin tweeted that he and Butina were lifetime NRA members.
In a June 2015 article published in The National Interest, a conservative American international affairs magazine, just before Trump announced his candidacy for president, Butina urged better relations between the United States and Russia, saying, "It may take the election of a Republican to the White House in 2016 to improve relations between the Russian Federation and the United States." Her biography on the article did not mention that she worked for the Russian government. The next month, Butina attended FreedomFest, where Trump gave a speech, and asked him from the audience about ending U.S. sanctions against Russia, to which he replied, "I don't think you'd need the sanctions." Butina hosted a birthday party attended by Erickson and Trump campaign aides shortly after the 2016 election
To paraphrase one of Trump's tweets, the connection between the NRA and the Trump campaign is a "smocking gun"
Since the NRA spent $30 million to get Trump elected, he should start to think about resigning, before the news gets REALLY ugly.