maria butina trump
Commenting on the arrest of Maria Butina on charges that she was an agent of the Russian government, the Russian ambassador to the US accused American intelligence agencies of "hunting" Russians abroad. Speaking to Sputnik, political commentator Joe Quinn explained why Butina's alleged activities may have touched a nerve among the US deep state.


Sputnik: Maria Butina's lawyer has called the charges against her a misuse of law. How justified are the charges, in your view?

Joe Quinn: Butina is effectively a lobbyist for her 'right to bear arms' organization in Russia, and also for her patron I suppose - Alexander Torshin. And sure, Torshin might have some kind of shady dealings in his history, but they're no worse than many other US and European politicians. The allegations that Butina and Torshin were trying to network in the US are probably true. They may have also have had some small or ineffective attempts to establish contacts between Team Trump and Russia. But that's kind of par for the course in politics, in both the US and Russia, not to mention around the world.

There's no reason to believe that Butina and Torshin wanted anything other than to have improved relations between the US and Russia - between the then-incoming Trump administration and Russia. For the 'deep state', the forces that run the US behind the scenes, that's a serious crime - trying to establish positive relations between the US and Russia.

The other point is that there are dozens of other Russians like Butina in the US attempting to gain influence in one way or another, and there are also likely dozens of American citizens in Russia and most other countries [in Europe] who are attempting to do the same thing.

That said, generally speaking, in the history of US lobbyists and influencers in other countries, the fact is that their intent is usually not so positive. They're not usually interested in implementing peaceful relations between countries. They're usually up to no good. It's well-known that US intelligence agencies as well as private individuals working on behalf of the US have been involved in trying to prevent certain governments from coming to power, even up to the point of overthrowing other governments.

So I get your point that there's massive hypocrisy on the part of the US to accuse one Russian of getting up to some nefarious activity in the US when that has been the kind of bread-and-butter of US foreign policy for the past 70-80 years. It's amazing hypocrisy.

Sputnik: Do you think what Butina was doing really warranted her registration as a foreign agent?

Joe Quinn: On the face of it, based on the available information, no, I don't think that's the case. But of course we saw over the past year with the whole anti-Russian hysteria, you had RT and Sputnik being forced to register as foreign agents. So there's obviously a propaganda war going on here. But in terms of Butina, if that's her only crime - that she didn't register as a foreign agent, that she's working for the Russian government, fair enough, they can accuse her of doing that. But there would have to be some disclosure around that fact, and all the details of what she was actually doing; and anybody making that accusation, like the FBI, will have to prove that she was working on behalf of the Russian government.

But I don't think they want to go there. These kinds of people prefer the kind of 'trial by media' that has been going on, especially in reference to Russia, over the past several years. They prefer to simply make the allegations, have the media repeat them, and then leave it at that. The evidence says that they really don't want this to go to trial, because then there'll be all sorts of disclosure required, and it's obvious that they don't want to go there - to actually have to present evidence for their allegations. They simply want to make the allegations and then move on to the next allegations.

Sputnik: The charges come as President Trump has met with President Putin. Trump is actually under quite a bit of pressure as well. Are these interconnected things? The way Trump met with Putin, for two hours with nobody else present...

Joe Quinn: Well, that's their prerogative. They can talk to each other privately if they want. The idea that this is a 'scandal' is being hyped up by the media. I suppose the key for me with the situation that Trump has been put in - really almost since before he was elected president - by this 'Russia collusion' business is that he's damned if he does and damned if he doesn't.

The 'scandal' appears to be that he chose not to agree with US intelligence - or some US intel agencies' assessment that there was some Russian influence over the election, specifically collusion between the Russian government and the Trump campaign. They want him to admit - to state openly - that yes, there was some Russian government influence over the US presidential election, and in doing so obviously discredit himself, discredit his own election win. If he admits to Russian collusion, then he's obviously not the legitimate winner of that election. But if he doesn't do that, then they simply accuse him of covering up the facts and colluding with Russia!

Whatever he does, he's discredited, and that's what they've been aiming for since the very beginning.