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Butina was not a sexy spy, and was not arrested and prosecuted by special counsel Mueller, as most people believe.Bamford is acknowledged as a leading expert on the US intelligence community, especially the NSA. He's author of The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America. He has known Maria Butina for almost 4 years, and wrote this detailed report at The New Republic.
Tech note: due to Skype audio problems, there is some distortion in Bamford's audio during the first part of the podcast, which we couldn't filter out. Apologies to all ears that are irritated!
On July 13, 2018, Mueller issued indictments for 13 Russians from the GRU, military intelligence. Two days later, Butina was arrested as she was about to move to South Dakota with her boyfriend, portrayed in the media as preparing to flee justice. The following day, Trump met with Putin in Helsinki. The media packaged these events in a manner that led many to believe they were all connected.
Bamford debunks the "pack reporting" that turned Butina into a foreign agent, and fueled speculation that she funneled money from Russia into the NRA, which spent it in support of Trump. While Rachel Maddow inferred that Alexander Torshin, the head of Russia's Central Bank, was her spymaster, Bamford asserts that they were allies for gun rights in Russia, and that Butina received no money from Torshin.
Butina did get financial support from an American, George O'Neill, an heir to the Rockefeller fortune; O'Neill and Butina's boyfriend, Paul Erickson, paid her grad school expenses at American University. In a separate case, Erickson has been charged with fraud dating to 1995 by a South Dakota federal prosecutor.
Bamford says the case against Butina is "extremely flimsy and appears to be driven largely by a desire for publicity".
Near the end, we discuss Bill Binney's theories aboutthe DNC being subjected to insider leaks, not outsider hacks. Bamford dismisses this as "conspiracy theory" while acknowledging that we still have no public evidence that Russia passed hacked emails to WikiLeaks.