Maria Butina
© Reuters / Alexandria Sheriff's Office
Maria Butina, after months in solitary confinement
The Justice Department's criminal prosecution of 30-year-old Russian Maria Butina, along with the mainstream media's reporting on the case, gets more comedic with each passing day. Yesterday, Butina pled guilty to the grave federal criminal offense of befriending the United States.

What could be more evil and nefarious than that? Imagine the audacity of a Russian trying to make friends with the United States! What could possibly have been going through her mind? Lock her up!

Okay, it's true that that wasn't the actual charge to which Butina pled guilty. Technically, she pled guilty to conspiring to fail to register as an agent of the Russian government. But it is clear that that "crime" is just a sham. Her real offense is befriending the United States on behalf of the Russian government, which is a grave crime in the eyes of the U.S. national-national establishment (i.e., the Pentagon, CIA, and NSA), whose existence has depended on a hostile relationship with Russia since the time the U.S. government was converted from a limited-government republic to a national-security state after World War II.

Take a look at these excerpts from the Washington Post's reporting on Butina's guilty plea:
As part of the deal, Ms. Butina admitted to being involved in an organized effort, backed by Russian officials, to open up unofficial lines of communication with influential Americans in the N.R.A. and in the Republican Party, and to win them over to the idea of Russia as a friend, not a foe. (Italics added.)

She openly advocated Russia-friendly policies and closer connections between her homeland and the United States in speeches and during her time at American University in Washington, where she earned a master's degree. (Italics added.)

Beginning in 2015, prosecutors said in the plea deal, Ms. Butina "agreed and conspired" with Mr. Torshin and Mr. Erickson ... to infiltrate the Republican Party and the N.R.A. and to promote Russia-friendly policies on behalf of the Kremlin. (Italics added.)
Thus, befriending the United States on behalf of Russia is Butina's real crime and, indeed, Russia's real crime. Russia isn't supposed to do that. Russia is supposed to continue playing its role as an official enemy of the United States. How else can the Pentagon, the CIA, the NSA, and the entire military-industrial complex justify their existence and their ever-increasing taxpayer-funded largess?

One of the funniest aspects of all this is that during the Cold War, the spiel that the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA were using to propagandize and indoctrinate the American people was that Russia and the rest of the Soviet Union were trying to infiltrate the United States from the left.

That's why the the entire military-intelligence establishment, including the FBI, was obsessed with spying on, exposing, and destroying the U.S. Communist Party, the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, leftist Hollywood writers, and everyone else who had any taint of communism or socialism in his background. (Well, except for Lee Harvey Oswald, a openly and publicly self-avowed U.S. Marine communist who sauntered across the Cold War stage of history without being adversely affected, no doubt because he was actually a U.S. intelligence operative who was trained to be a communist infiltrator.)

It's also why the Pentagon and the CIA got the United States embroiled in the Korean War and the Vietnam War, where more than 100,000 American citizens, some of whom had been conscripted (i.e., forced to serve in the military), were killed.

The commies, we were told, were everywhere, possibly even in the military itself. They were coming to get us, Americans were told. It was all because of a worldwide communist conspiracy to take over the United States and the world, a conspiracy supposedly based in Moscow, Russia.

Yes, that Russia! The Russia that is now committing the heinous crime of trying to befriend us!

But here's the thing: The Russians have now apparently converted from leftist Reds to rightwing conservatives! This radical change in ideological direction is reflected by Butina's nefarious scheme to infiltrate right-wing organizations like the NRA, the Heritage Foundation, and CPAC.

Those crafty Russkies! They'll do anything to make friends with the United States, even becoming rightwing conservatives!

Another comical part of all this ridiculous brouhaha is the Justice Department's accusation that Butina was using sex as a way to infiltrate herself into the conservative movement, an allegation that they embarrassingly renounced later on. As the Washington Post put it,
Yet even as prosecutors secured Ms. Butina's conviction and cooperation, they faced questions about their initial portrayal of Ms. Butina as something like a character out of "Red Sparrow," the spy thriller about a Russian femme fatale.

Prosecutors had already been forced to back off the most salacious accusations against Ms. Butina - that she used sex as spycraft - and acknowledged in court filings this week that she genuinely wanted a graduate degree, and was not simply posing as a student to live in the United States. They also dropped accusations of her being in contact with Russian intelligence agencies, and that she was only using Mr. Erickson to gain access to other influential Americans.
Darn! This whole brouhaha would have been so much better if Butina had turned out to be the Red Sparrow after all.

Meanwhile, conservatives, many of whom reveled in the Cold War animus against the Russian Reds, now find themselves befuddled about the NRA and the conservative movement being accused of being part of a Russian conspiracy to befriend the Untied States.

According to the Washington Post, 73-year-old longtime conservative David Keene, for example, former opinion editor at the conservative Washington Times and a former president of the NRA, exclaimed, "I'm just amazed that in today's world, if you shake hands with a Russian, you must be an agent of the Kremlin."

He's not the only one who is befuddled by the anti-Russia brouhaha. Former communist KGB officer and current president of Russia Vladimir Putin exclaimed about Maria Butina, "I asked all the heads of our intelligence services what is happening, 'Who is she?' No one knows a thing about her." But hey, everyone knows that you can't trust a former communist, especially one who has become a born-again, gun-toting rightwing conservative who is hell-bent on befriending the United States.
Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education.