Trump consoles NRA as Russian spy sent to prison

President Donald Trump spoke before the National Rifle Association convention in Indianapolis on the same day a federal judge threw the book at Russian spy Mariia Butina, whose mission was to influence the gun lobby to help elect the Republican during the 2016 election.

Still reeling from the Muller report’s disclosure of a dozen incidents that could lead to his impeachment for obstruction of justice, gun lobby members heard Trump stick to the right-wing nationalist ‘America First’ rhetoric associated with xenophobia, nativism and antisemitism.

Butina, a Russian national, was sentenced today to 18 months in prison after earlier pleading guilty to a federal charge of conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government.

Trump speaking to the National Rifle Association, a group that made a multimillion investment in his campaign, declared his administration will not ratify the UN Arms Trade Treaty – a treaty supported by the Obama administration that is aimed at regulating the international arms industry.

The Russian agent conspicuously met both Trump and his son, Eric Trump, in the months prior to the presidential election and her influences clearly endangered America’s national security.

In response to a question from the Russian spy about U.S. relations with Russia, Trump said he would have good relations with Putin and there is strong evidence Trump knew who Butina was before he even called on her.

Butina, 30, a Russian citizen who had been residing in Washington D.C., pled guilty on Dec. 13, 2018, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.  She was sentenced by Judge Tanya S. Chutkan.  

Following her incarceration, Butina is to be deported to Russia.

In April 2018, Butina told the Senate Intelligence Committee that Konstantin Nikolaev, a Russian billionaire, provided funding for her gun-rights group but she later pled guilty to felony charges of conspiracy to act as an unregistered foreign agent of the Russian state.

According to the government’s evidence, from approximately 2015 to 2017, Butina acted as an agent of a Russian government official.  

Under his direction, she provided key information about Americans who were in a position to influence United States politics and took steps to establish an unofficial line of communication between Russia and the National Rifle Association, a group that made a multimillion investment in Trump’s 2016 campaign.

As described in the plea documents, Butina sought to do so for the benefit of the Russian Federation and took these actions without providing the required notifications to the Attorney General that she was in fact acting as an agent of that government.

Butina was arrested on July 15, 2018, in Washington, D.C., and has been in custody ever since.  Butina will get credit for the time she already has served.  The court also granted a government motion that led to a reduced sentence in the case.

The investigation into this matter was conducted by the FBI’s Washington Field Office.  The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Erik M. Kenerson, Thomas N. Saunders, and Jolie Zimmerman of the National Security Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, and Trial Attorney William A. Mackie of the National Security Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Mueller Report, formally titled Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election, documented the findings and conclusions of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 United States presidential election.

Allegations of conspiracy between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia led to numerous acts of obstruction of justice that were described in the 448-page report.

The report concluded that Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election did occur “in sweeping and systematic fashion” and “violated U.S. criminal law” and identified multiple contacts between Trump campaign officials and individuals with ties to the Russian government.

Several people connected to the Trump campaign made false statements about Russian contacts and obstructed investigations.

Paul Manafort and Rick Gates were found guilty of criminal offenses stemming from their prior lobbying work for the Ukrainian Party of Regions.

The report describes ten episodes where Trump could potentially have obstructed justice while president and one before he was elected, noting he privately tried to “control the investigation” in multiple ways, but mostly failed to influence the investigation because his aides refused to carry out his instructions.

The Special Counsel concluded that Congress should decide whether Trump obstructed justice because it has the authority to take action against him, such as potential impeachment proceedings, a motion to censure or other punishment.

The investigation found the evidence was insufficient to show an illegal conspiracy despite the fact that there were as many as 140 contacts between Trump, his campaign associates, Russian nationals and intermediaries associated with WikiLeaks.

The office declined to pursue charges because it could not obtain admissible evidence that would meet the burden of proof principle beyond a reasonable doubt that the campaign officials acted with general knowledge about the illegality of their conduct.

Muller also expected difficulty proving the promised information “exceeded the threshold for a criminal violation” of $2,000 for a criminal violation and $25,000 for a felony punishment.

Although Republicans have sought to convince Americans that the report exonerates Trump, upon learning that Mueller had been appointed as Special Counsel, the President said “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I’m fucked,” to Jeff Sessions when they were having a meeting in the Oval Office.

“You were supposed to protect me,” Sessions recalled Trump telling him, according to the report.

“We will never allow foreign bureaucrats to trample on your Second Amendment,” Trump said at the NRA convention.

Gun safety advocates spoke out against the president’s decision to back away from the treaty, which seeks to make it more difficult to sell weapons to countries that are under arms embargoes.

“The Arms Trade Treaty is designed to keep guns out of war-stricken countries and prevent dangerous situations from descending even further into chaos. It is a treaty supported by our allies, but in opposing it, the president instead chose to stand with countries such as North Korea and Syria,” said Kris Brown, the president of Brady, an organization aimed at preventing gun violence.

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