How Did Carter Page Join the Trump Train?

How did Carter Page get his ticket to board the Trump train?

Page, reportedly the subject of a secret intelligence court warrant, was one of the Trump advisors Russian intelligence tried to use to infiltrate the campaign, CNN is reporting.

Did he ever meet Trump? Who introduced him to the campaign?  Like most things with the whole saga of Donald Trump and Russia the answers are not so clear.

On March 21, 2016, Trump met with the editorial board of The Washington Post. Frederick Ryan, the Post’s publisher, asked Trump whether he could share any names of his foreign policy team. Among the names that Trump reeled out was “Carter Page, PhD.”

A former investment banker with Merrill Lynch, Page opened the firm’s Moscow office, and then left to found Global Energy Capital LLC of New York, an investment company specializing in the oil and gas sector in Russia. He had partnered on some deals with Sergey Yatsenko, a former deputy chief financial officer at Gazprom, the Russian gas giant with close ties to the Kremlin.

Page was unknown in Washington’s foreign policy circles and no one paid him much attention until he made a trip to Moscow in July and gave a speech critical of U.S. policy at Moscow’s New Economic School.  Washington had a “hypocritical focus on ideas such as democratization, inequality, corruption and regime change” in its dealings with Russia, Page said.

What else did Page do in Moscow? Once again, it’s not clear. Page has never said whom he met with in Moscow. When he was asked by Reuters whether he was planning to meet anyone from the Kremlin, the Russian government or Foreign Ministry during his visit, Page declined to comment. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich also spoke at the graduation. Page has given conflicting stories on whether he met him. On March 2, Page told Christopher Hayes of MSNBC that he only met with “scholars and professors and some students there.”

Page’s Moscow visit got the FBI’s attention. Something that happened during his Moscow trip — exactly what isn’t clear — led the FBI to seek  a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court warrant for Page after his departure from the campaign, according to a front-page story in The New York Times. To obtain the warrant, which reportedly has been renewed, the FBI convinced a judge that there was evidence showing Page was an agent of a foreign power. Page has strongly denied this.

[For the background on Page’s contacts with Russian officials, see the Carter Page Timeline.]

By August, the Trump campaign was already distancing itself from Page and on September 26, he announced he was leaving the campaign, saying his continued presence had become a distraction. Looking back, Page viewed his time on the Trump campaign as one of his greatest experiences. “The half year I spent on the Trump campaign meant more to me than the five years I spent in the Navy,” he told The Times.

Page is full of strange comments like that. He has often changed his stories. He has refused repeatedly to say what he did for the Trump campaign. He also has not been well-served by his habit of reflexively refusing to comment every time he gets in front of a microphone.

From the get-go, Page has been cryptic about how he came to join the Trump campaign. In a Bloomberg story published nine days after Trump announced him as a member of his foreign policy team, Page declined to say how he and Trump connected.

Much later, it emerged that Sam Clovis, a GOP activist and economics professor on leave from Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa, produced a list of foreign policy advisers that included Page’s name.  Julia Ioffe quoted a Trump advisor naming Clovis as the intermediary in this exhaustive Page story in Politico back in September:

According to the Trump policy adviser, this winter, Clovis began to draw up a list of people who could serve as policy advisers to the campaign and give it some intellectual and policy heft. At a time when established Republican foreign policy specialists were tripping over each other to get away from Trump, “a lot of people came to Sam Clovis in February, March, and said, ‘I want to be part of the team,’” says the Trump adviser. And that’s how it happened. “He’s just a guy on a list. Trump looked at the list and said, ‘He’s an adviser.’ And now he’s milking it for all it’s worth.”

[Editor’s note: an earlier version of this post incorrectly named The Daily Caller as the first to report the Clovis connection.]

But it seemed unlikely that an Iowa politico would come up with Page’s name on his own. And, on April 12, Page was interviewed on CNN by Jake Tapper, and Page once again muddied the waters about how he came to join the campaign.

TAPPER: Was it Sam Clovis? Was it Sam Clovis?

PAGE: I have no comment. I have no comment.

TAPPER: Well, I mean, I know you want to get out all this information, but then you refuse to answer questions.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: There’s nothing wrong with somebody bring you into the campaign. I’m just trying to find out who it was.

PAGE: It’s an irrelevant point. He was not the first person that brought me in. I can assure you of that.

A day later, on April 13, The Daily Caller, citing multiple sources, reported that the mystery man who had introduced Page to Clovis was Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s former campaign manager. Lewandowski introduced Page to Clovis sometime in late 2015 or early 2016, according to The Daily Caller.

To date, no other news outlet has verified this. Lewandowski insisted (a bit too strongly, perhaps?) that he didn’t know Page in a March 5 Fox News interview.

“I was on the campaign for 18 months. I never met the guy and for anybody to say otherwise is factually inaccurate,” Lewandowski said. “I don’t know who Carter Page is. I never had a conversation with Carter Page. I never met Carter Page and anybody who says otherwise is not being truthful. And let me tell you this: A lot of people now want to claim that they were on the Trump campaign because he’s now president of the United States who had nothing to do with the campaign and Carter Page is one of those guys.”

Despite his denials, the Lewandowski connection, if true, backs up an earlier report in Politico about Page’s Moscow Trip.  Lewandowski had approved Page’s Moscow trip over the objections of J.D. Gordon, another Trump advisor.

Lewandowski overruled Gordon and told Page he could go, but not as a representative of the Trump campaign. But that was not how Page’s visit was received in Moscow.

At Moscow’s New Economic School, a newsletter announcing Page’s visit read: “You are invited to a lecture by Carter Page, foreign policy adviser for Donald Trump’s election campaign.”  Katehon, an influential, conservative Russian think tank, warmly welcomed Page’s visit, published excerpts of his speech and described his visit in glowing terms in a post headlined, “Trump’s Advisor in Moscow: An Alternative for the US.”

The Politico story also contained a quote that I found hard to forget. When asked what Page did while in Moscow, an unnamed campaign advisor said this: “I have no idea. I didn’t want to know.”

 

 

RT — The Foreign Agent in Your TV Set

The motto of RT, the Kremlin-backed propaganda network, is “question more.”  RT loves to pose questions about all manner of conspiracy theories, such as the Sept. 11 attacks were an inside job. However, one subject which RT dares not question is the nature of its own organization.

  • What is RT America?
  • Does the Kremlin pay its bills?
  • Is RT a foreign agent?

What is RT America?

RT describes itself as a “publicly-funded, non-profit organization.” It is a brand of ANO TV-Novosti, an “autonomous non-profit organization”, established in Moscow 2005 by the now-defunct Russian news agency, RIA Novosti. In the United States, it operates through a US corporation that is RT in all but name.

When it first launched in 2005 the network called itself “Russia Today” but it rebranded itself in 2009 as the more ambiguous RT.  “We removed ‘Russia Today’ from the logo after many colleagues, also from foreign media, told us that it was diminishing our potential audience,” said Margarita Simonyan, RT’s editor in chief told The Moscow Times. “Who is interested in watching news from Russia all day long?”

Fans of “alternative facts” love to tune in to RT, which bombards viewers in Europe, the UK (where RT’s bank accounts have been frozen) and America with all sorts of outlandish stories in English, Arabic, Spanish, and, of course, Russian.

The US intelligence community devoted a good deal of its report on Russia’s interference in the US elections to RT, saying it was part of “a Kremlin-directed campaign to undermine faith in the US Government and fuel political protest” and noting that RT’s editor in chief Margarita Simonyan was close to the Kremlin. Not to be outdone,  Simonyan cleverly mocked the report in an open letter titled, “Dear CIA.”

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RT editor Margarita Simonyan and Vladimir Putin

Does the Kremlin pays its bills?

RT’s budget of more than $300 million comes from the Federal Agency for Press and Mass Communications of the Russian Federation. (By comparison, the budget of the BBC, which is funded by the British government, is $375 million). In other words, yes, the Kremlin pays the bills.

Is RT a foreign agent?

The funny thing about RT is that the only place you will find it in the United States is on your TV set. RT has been very careful not to have any legal or physical presence in the United States.

The only legal paperwork I could find for RT was a 2009 US trademark application:

As you can see, RT’s own trademark states that it produces “ongoing news shows pertaining to current events in Russia.”

The trademark was obtained by RTTV America Inc., the commercial entity through which RT America operates in the United States.

RT’s editor Margarita Simonyan says that RT does not need to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. RT “simply transfers funds” to RTTV America.

However, this is a fig leaf. RT’s own trademark application, shows that RTTV America assigned its entire interest in the trademark to ANO TV-Novosti in Moscow.

The entire value of the RT brand in the United States belongs to a Russian corporation.

The Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1933 is designed to “insure that the US government and the people of the United States are informed of the source of information (propaganda) and the identity of persons attempting to influence US public opinion, policy, and laws.”

As the Atlantic noted, two Asian television networks and the distributors for two Chinese daily newspapers have registered under FARA. NHK, which rebroadcasts Japanese programming in the United States, is registered as a foreign agent.

The FARA statute exempts news organizations unless they are “owned, directed, supervised, controlled, subsidized or financed” by any organization registered outside the United States. It’s clear that RT is funded by the Russian government. So, yes, RT is a foreign agent.

Ilya Ponomarev, a leftist former member of the Russian Duma who now lives in exile in the United States, told Buzzfeed that RT is not a media outlet, and should register as a foreign agent.

“It’s a great mistake that the west is doing, that it’s acknowledging it as a media tool,” he said. “I think it’s a lobbying tool and it should be regulated as a lobbyist rather than media.”

“Russia Today is way more dangerous than ISIS. Way more dangerous,” he said. “Because ISIS may create physical danger with certain western individuals who are coming into direct contact with ISIS, but RT is very focused and committed in disputing the very core values of western society.”

The most difficult question to answer is whether RT deserves First Amendment protections. I’ll try to tackle that in a future post.

 

Why Did a Russian NHL Player Sue Trump’s Lawyer, Michael Cohen?

Vladimir Malakhov is a Russian-born retired professional hockey player. He was active in the NHL 1992 to 2006, playing for the New York Islanders, the Montreal Canadiens, and the New Jersey Devils.

In January of 1999, Malakhov wrote a check for $350,000 to Michael D. Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer. The check was deposited — and then the money disappeared.

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What happened to the money and how this check came to be written to Michael Cohen was the subject of years of litigation in Circuit Court in Miami, Florida. (See Fomina v. Netscheret, 2006-001330-CA-01.)

Malakhov sued Cohen (/a/k/a “Michael D. Hacking”) in 2010 in Miami Circuit Court. (Malakov v. Cohen, 2010-14576-CA-03). I’ve embedded the lawsuit at the bottom of this post.

The story begins in late 1998 or early 1999, when Malakhov was living in Florida, and earning millions as a professional hockey player playing with the Montreal Canadiens.

One day, an acquaintance asked him for a large loan. The acquaintance was a woman named Julia Fomina. According to an affidavit filed by Malakhov’s agent, the money was intended not for Fomina but rather her boyfriend in Russia, Vitaly Buslaev. (For more on Buslaev’s background, see Yuri Felstinsky’s original article at the website Gordonua.com. There’s also a story out in Buzzfeed.)

Malakhov loaned $350,000 to Fomina and, on the advice of his attorney, secured the loan by having Fomina sign over a mortgage for her apartment on the 24th floor of Miami Beach condo tower.

For reasons that aren’t clear, Fomina instructed Malakhov’s wife to send the $350,000 loan to Michael Cohen. The check was issued in January 1999 to Cohen personally, not his law firm or many businesses, and deposited in Cohen’s Citibank trust account.

Sometime later, Fomina defaulted on her loan.  When Malakhov moved to foreclose on the condominium, Fomina swore under oath that she never received the $350,000 that had been sent to Cohen.

It took years before Cohen was finally deposed and asked what happened to the money. Cohen’s response: “I don’t recall.”  He insisted he didn’t know Malakhov, had no idea why the hockey player would write him such a huge check, had no records relating to the check, and had no clue what happened to the money.

A Miami judge accepted Cohen’s story and dismissed the case.

In deposition, Cohen speculated that one of the reasons why Malakhov might have sent him the check were his ties to Russians, including his business partner, the Ukrainian-born “Taxi King” Simon Garber. I’ve written previously about Cohen’s family ethanol business in Ukraine.

The Malakhov story connects to Trump in another roundabout way.

A few years before he wrote the check to Cohen, Malakhov was shaken down by a Russian mobster, according to testimony at a U.S. Senate hearing on Russian organized crime.

Malakhov, who at the time was playing for the New York Islanders, was approached in the National Restaurant in New York City’s Brighton Beach neighborhood. The man who demanded money from the hockey player worked for Vyacheslav Kirillovich Ivankov, one of the most powerful Russian Mafia bosses in America.

As I noted in an earlier post, Ivankov is one of several Mobsters who turned up in Trump Tower. Invakov also showed up Trump’s New Jersey casino, the Taj Mahal. Ivankov’s phone book included a working number for the Trump Organization’s Trump Tower residence, and a Trump Organization fax machine.

Ivankov was arrested in 1995 and sent to prison for extortion. After his release he returned to Russia where he was assassinated.

As for Malakhov, after he was shaken down, he spent the next months in fear, looking over his shoulder. His worries ended when he was traded to the Canadiens.

A Missing Piece of the Puzzle

The Guardian is out with a report that contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence occurred much earlier than previously reported:

GCHQ first became aware in late 2015 of suspicious “interactions” between figures connected to Trump and known or suspected Russian agents, a source close to UK intelligence said. This intelligence was passed to the US as part of a routine exchange of information, they added.

Looking at the Trump-Russian Timeline, this puts other events around that time into context. Beginning in late 2015,  the following events occurred:

  • December: Accounts associated with Russian propaganda “troll farm” called the Internet Research Agency begins supporting Donald Trump
  • December 17: Vladimir Putin praises Donald Trump at his annual news conference. “He is a bright and talented person without any doubt. He is the absolute leader of the presidential race.”
  • Feb. 2: Alexander Dugin, a conservative “philosopher” with close ties to the Kremlin, endorses Trump.
  • March: Individuals linked to the Russian government begin openly supporting Donald Trump. Government-funded propaganda outlets RT and Sputnik cast Trump as the target of unfair coverage from mainstream media outlets.
  • March: A hacking group known as “Fancy Bear” or “APT28” launches a spearfishing campaign targeting email addresses at hillaryclinton.com and dnc.org that gains them access to DNC network. The hacking group is run by the Russian foreign military intelligence service (GRU) and appears focused on a single target: the DNC’s opposition research files on Donald Trump.

What the publicly available information shows is a steady ramping up of Russian support for Trump.

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Our man in Moscow

The GHCQ information fills in the missing piece. The contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence appear to be the catalyst for the covert and overt support from Moscow.

Michael Flynn’s December 10 trip to Moscow also emerges as a possible lynchpin in this story. Flynn, you will recall, attended RT’s 10th anniversary gala in Moscow, where was seated at the head table next to Vladimir Putin. It’s not clear what Flynn’s role in the campaign was in this time, if any. The two men first met in August; Flynn announced he was advising Trump in February 2016.

A website that tracked Trump’s evolving campaign team lists the following people as part of Trump’s inner circle in late 2015:

  • Corey Lewandowski
  • Michael Glassner
  • Donald F. McGahn
  • Michael Cohen
  • Hope Hicks
  • Roger Stone (resigned Aug. 8, 2015)

More TK.

 

 

 

 

 

Op-Ed: Trump’s $95 million home sale to Russian deserves scrutiny

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Trump outside Maison de l’Aimitie, which he sold to a Russian billionaire.

Published online April 6, 2017 in The San Diego Union-Tribune

by Seth Hettena

When the FBI recently revealed that it was investigating the nature of any links between President Trump, his associates and the Russian government, I was reminded of another scandal involving disgraced San Diego County Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham.

The story, which began with a report published in the San Diego Union-Tribune, grew into one of the biggest political scandals in county history. In 2006, a federal judge sentenced Cunningham to 100 months in prison for accepting $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors to whom he steered lucrative Pentagon contracts.

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Duke Cunningham

While there are many differences between the two men — Cunningham, unlike Trump, served his country honorably during the Vietnam War and became a highly decorated Navy fighter pilot — there are similarities where their political careers are concerned.

Like Trump, Cunningham had a loose tongue that often got him in trouble. Like Trump, he mocked, taunted, bullied and insulted his political opponents. And like Trump, Cunningham was drawn into far-fetched conspiracies. Look in the Congressional Record, and you’ll find Cunningham denouncing President Bill Clinton as a traitor and a KGB dupe because of a visit to Moscow as a college-aged man.

At the center of Cunningham’s bribery scandal was a real estate deal. Cunningham sold his home in Del Mar to a defense contractor and campaign contributor named Mitchell Wade, one of the shady “friends” the congressman attracted. Wade paid $1.675 million for the congressman’s home in 2003, an eye-popping figure that attracted attention even in San Diego County’s red-hot housing market.

Wade bought the home without ever having set foot in it, and only later found out that it was in sorry shape, darkened by the bars Cunningham installed over every window and skylight to foil Del Mar’s burglars. Wade put the home up for sale a month later, but it languished for a year before he managed to unload it for a $700,000 loss. To prosecutors, it smelled like bribery. And it was.

President Trump also sold a home for more than it was worth — except the house itself and the sale price were both much, much bigger. The property was a sprawling, oceanfront mansion in Palm Beach, Florida that Trump sold for $95 million after purchasing it four years earlier for $41 million. At the time, it was the most expensive U.S. home sale ever.

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Dmitry Rybolovlev

The buyer of the 6-acre property was a Russian fertilizer magnate named Dmitry Rybolovlev. The sale took place in July 2008, a time when the overheated U.S. real estate market was showing signs of distress and the supply of luxury homes exceeded demand.

Rybolovlev overpaid. Five years after the sale, Palm Beach County officials appraised the house at less than $60 million.

To be fair, no one has accused Trump or Rybolovlev of bribery, but the similarities between the sale of Cunningham’s property and Trump’s are striking. Not unlike the defense contractor who bought Cunningham’s Del Mar home, the Russian fertilizer king showed little interest in Trump’s mansion before or after he bought it. He never lived in it and is said to have visited it only once.

The home was plagued by mold, and, amazingly, a lawyer for Rybolovlev’s ex-wife told the Palm Beach Post he found no evidence that the Russian billionaire had hired anyone to inspect the property before he paid Trump a $50 million premium for it. In 2015, Rybolovlev got permission to demolish the 61,744-square-foot home, and is now selling off the land underneath it.

Other coincidences link Rybolovlev and Trump. Reporters have tracked the Russian billionaire’s private plane to cities where Trump was traveling during the 2016 presidential campaign and into his presidency. Both men say they have never met.

It could be that the sale of the Palm Beach mansion is an example of Trump’s ballyhooed deal-making skills. And it is also possible that it was something else: that the purchase of the mansion known as Maison de l’Aimitié (House of Friendship) was a covert form of payment from friends unknown in Russia or elsewhere.

The major difference between the two transactions is that at the time of the sale of the Palm Beach mansion, Trump was not a public official. But now that he occupies the most powerful office in the world, the FBI, Senate and House intelligence committees who are examining the president’s ties to Russia should learn the lessons of the Cunningham scandal and give the enormous premium paid for Trump’s moldering mansion — purchased sight unseen — the close scrutiny it deserves.

Hettena, a former military writer, is a freelance writer based in San Diego.

The Godfather Goes to Washington

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Reputed Russian mob “godfather” at the 2016 NRA convention in Louisville, Ky.

How did a suspected Russian mob “Godfather” nearly make it to a private meeting in February with President Trump? With help from friends in the NRA.

Dramatis Personae

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The “Godfather” Alexander Torshin

The Godfather: Spanish police investigating the Moscow-based Taganskaya crime syndicate laundering ill-gotten gains through banks and properties in Spain learn that Alexander Torshin, while serving as  a deputy speaker of the upper house of parliament in Russia, instructed members how to launder criminal proceeds. Wiretaps recorded Torshin talking in 2012 and 2013 to the alleged Taganskaya leader in Spain, Alexander Romanov. An internal document from the Spanish Civil Guard Information Service, explains Torshin’s central role in the criminal plot.

“As a consequence of the phone tapping carried out in the aforementioned inquiries it has been ratified that, above Romanov, on a higher hierarchical level, is Alexander Torshin. In the numerous phone conversations and with different contact persons, Alexander Romanov himself recognized his subordination before someone who he describes as ‘the Godfather’ or ‘the boss’ … which in itself is telling when it comes to situating their relationship.”

Torshin also has longstanding ties to the FSB, successor agency to Russia’s KGB.

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Maria Butina

The Honeypot: Maria Butina. In 2011, this tall redhead was involved in sales of appliances and furniture in the Altai region of Siberia, A year later, she was rubbing elbows with Torshin and putting together Право на Оружие (translated as “Right to Bear Arms”) in Moscow, an international gun rights organization.

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David Keene

The Useful Idiot: David A. Keene is a political consultant, longtime director of the American Conservative Union, past president of the National Rifle Association, and currently the opinion editor of The Washington Times. Although not the power broker he once was, Keene still wields influence. He takes a liking to Torshin and Butina and opens doors for them in Washington and introduces them to influential people.

Our Story Begins

It’s election day in America, 2012. Barack Obama is running for a second term against Mitt Romney. Enter Torshin.

Nov. 6 2012: Torshin travels to Nashville, Tennessee where the NRA has granted him special status as an observer for the 2012 presidential election. Tweet below reads: “Standing in line at the polling place. As an ordinary American. 6:45 a.m.” At the time, Torshin is a senator in Putin’s United Russia in the upper house of Russia’s parliament.

Nov. 8, 2012: Torshin visits the Russian ambassador’s residence in Washington and NRA headquarters in Washington, DC.

May 2013: Torshin attends the NRA’s annual meeting in Houston, Texas.

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Torshin photographed in 2013 with then NRA president David Keene at the NRA’s annual convention in Houston.

August 21, 2013: Torshin decides not to attend a birthday celebration for Taganskaya leader in Spain, Alexander Romanov, as planned. Spanish authorities believe he was warned by the Russian prosecutor that if he stepped onto Spanish soil he would be arrested.

November 2013: NRA president David Keene travels to Russia for a conference hosted by The Right to Bear Arms. Keene speaks at the conference, with Torshin in attendance.

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David Keene and Maria Butina in Moscow. (Source: Facebook)

January 2, 2014: David Keene publishes an op-ed piece in the Washington Times by his friend, Alexander Torshin. “Last year, I had the pleasure of attending the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting in Houston,” he writes. Torshin says he has been a “life member” of the NRA for years.

April 2014: Torshin and Butina attend the NRA’s annual meeting in Indianapolis, where they are given the red carpet treatment. Butina attends the annual NRA Women’s Leadership Luncheon as a guest of former NRA President Sandy Froman and participates in general meetings over the weekend as a guest of former NRA President David Keene. She also presents the then-NRA president Jim Porter with a plaque. Butina is given the “rare privilege” of ringing a Liberty Bell replica.

May 5, 2014: Maria Butina visits NRA headquarters in Washington, DC. and meets with David Keene.

May 6, 2014: Butina and her organization are profiled by conservative website Townhall.

We are a young organization. We are three years old. And we invited David Keene. He made a speech at our annual meeting. And so it’s like an answer from one side. The next side is the life member of our organization. He is our Russian senator. His name is Senator Alexander Torshin. He is a life member of NRA too, and he’s usually a participant of such events, and every annual meeting of NRA. But now the situation between (our) two countries is very difficult. And we have to go here together with Senator Torshin. He is a great gun lover, he supports our organization and he’s a friend of the NRA.

September 3, 2014: Paul Erickson, NRA member, GOP operative, campaign manager for Pat Buchanan’s 1992 presidential run, attends an open forum in Moscow organized by Right to Bear Arms.

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Butina and Erickson in Moscow

 

January, 20 2015: Torshin is named deputy governor of the Central Bank of Russia, responsible for liaison with the Federal Assembly chambers, and also federal and regional state executive bodies. Torshin selects Maria Butina as his special assistant.

April 2015: Torshin and Butina both attend NRA’s annual meeting in Nashville.

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April 10, 2015: Butina, Torshin and Keene meet future  Republican presidential candidate and Wisconsin governor Scott Walker during an event in Tennessee.

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July 11, 2015: Maria Butina attends Trump Freedom Fest rally in Las Vegas and poses a question to the Republican candidate: “I’m from Russia. My question will be about foreign politics. If you will be elected as president, what will be your foreign politics, especially in the relationships with my country? Do you want to continue the policy of sanctions that are damaging both economies? Or [do you] have any other ideas?”

Trump replies: “I know Putin, and I’ll tell you what, we’ll get along with Putin. … I would get along very nicely with Putin, I mean, where we have the strength. I don’t think you’d need the sanctions. I think we would get along very, very well.”

July 13, 2015: Butina attends the official launch of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s run for governor.

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December 2015:  An NRA delegation travels to Moscow to meet with Dmitry Rogozin, the deputy prime minister in charge of Russia’s defense industry who is a subject of US sanctions. The delegation consists of David Keene, Paul Erickson, and Milwaukee County, Wisconsin sheriff David A. Clarke. Right to Bear Arms pays $6,000 for Clarke’s meals, hotel, transportation, and entertainment. (Daily Beast story)

Feb. 7, 2016: Torshin attends National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C.

February 10, 2016: Paul Erickson forms a limited liability corporation with Maria Butina called Bridges, LLC., based in South Dakota. What this company does is a mystery.

May 20, 2016: Torshin attends NRA convention in Louisville, Kentucky. He shares a table with Donald Trump, Jr. at a private dinner. In the picture below, David Keene is in the background and Torshin is wearing a button that reads “I’m the NRA and I Voted.”

May 2016: Taganskaya mafia boss Alexander Romanov is sentenced to almost four years in a Spanish prison, after pleading guilty to illegal transactions totaling 1.65 million euros ($1.83 million) and $50,000.

August 8, 2016: Bloomberg reveals Torshin’s connections to organized crime.

Nov. 12, 2016: Butina celebrates her birthday with a costume party in Washington, DC. attended by several Trump’ campaign consultants.

January 20, 2017: Maria Butina and Paul Erickson attended the invitation-only Freedom Ball to celebrate Donald Trump’s swearing in as President of the United States.

Feb. 2, 2017: Torshin and Butina are excited to meet newly-elected President Donald Trump at the National Prayer Breakfast. Their hopes are dashed at the last minute when a White House national security aide notices Torshin’s name and flags him as a figure who had “baggage,” a reference to his suspected ties to organized crime, according to Yahoo News.

Butina told Yahoo:

“Late the night before, we were told that all meet and greets were off,” Butina wrote in an email. “There were no specific questions or statements that Mr. Torshin had in mind during what we assumed to be a five-second handshake. We all hope for better relations between our two countries. I’m sure there will be other opportunities to express this hope.”

Fin.