Betrayed Not Betrothed
The latest development in the RussiaGate saga, which has kept America spellbound for over a year, are recirculated rumors of an impending arrest of Republican-operative Paul Erickson for his role in the Russian meddling of the 2016 election. Erickson, the strange, if not estranged, lover of the alleged Russian spy Maria Butina, was notified, way back in September, by federal investigators that he maybe charged under Title 18 U.S.C. 951: Agents of foreign governments.
Megan Keller’s 12/05/2018 article for The Hill, titled “GOP operative boyfriend of alleged Russian agent receives ‘target letter’ from feds: report, “ recycled a story that was three-months old, yet failed to provide any new facts, instead relying heavily on a report issued in The Daily Beast, authored by Betsy Woodruff, titled “Feds Target Butina’s GOP Boyfriend as Foreign Agent.”
With regard to the target letter which federal investigators sent to Erickson in September of this year, Woodruff’s article reports, “ The letter also said the government may bring a conspiracy charge against Erickson,....If prosecutors bring the charges named in the letter, Erickson would be the first American embroiled in the 2016 Russia investigation charged under a statute that Justice Department lawyers describe as ‘espionage-lite.”
In an interesting twist of fate, Erickson is refusing to testify before the same U.S. Senate Intelligence committee, which tricked his girlfriend Maria Butina into making innocent statements, which could be twisted into lies and used against her if she were ever charged (as she eventually was) with a crime. While Paul Erickson, with the aid of hindsight, has learned that it is unwise, if not dangerous, to waive the right to remain silent, it is unclear why Robert Driscoll esq. didn’t protect, Ms. Butina in a similar manner during the Senate Intelligence committee interrogation of the bright-eyed and naive, pro-second Amendment advocate who sought improved dialogue between her native country and America. While there is no official form for a “target letter,” we will leave it to the reader to decide the intentions of federal investigators, for notifying a citizen who knew that he was under investigation, that he might be charged with a crime.
The relationship between Maria Butina and Paul Erickson was scrutinized in the 28/08/2018 article for ABC News by Pete Madden, Matthew Mosk and Kyra Phillips, which quotes Robert Driscoll, Butina’s attorney, as saying , “ I think in some ways it’s a classic love story, ...I think [reports] are filling in a lot of the gaps with a lot of spy novels.”
The ABC News article goes on to say, speaking about the relationship, “ And they often traveled together, not only to centers of power like Washington D.C. and Moscow, but also to their respective hometowns in South Dakota and Siberia to meet each other’s families.”
Perhaps some light can be shed on Paul Erickson’s character, by reviewing a 19/07/2018 article from Argus Leader, a Sioux Falls, South Dakota newspaper, titled “While meeting Russians, Paul Erickson ran from debts in South Dakota,” written by Dana Ferguson, Jonathan Ellis and Patrick Anderson. The article reports that, “ At a time when authorities say Paul Erickson was using his political network in Washington D.C. to help a woman who was later charged as a Russian agent, he was running from at least two significant debts and kiting bogus checks back in his home state of South Dakota.” The Argus Leader report also inferred a pattern of gross-financial irresponsibility, saying, “In May of that year, Erickson signed a confession of judgement. He also turned over a cashier’s check worth $10,000, money used to pay off Daniel Bielfeldt’s portion of the investment. The agreement called for Erickson to pay off the remaining $20,000 by July 29. But that didn’t happen. ‘Personal checks were received from Mr. Erickson but all were returned as insufficient funds’ according to an affidavit filed in the case.”
The potentially coercive “target letter” may be an innocent gesture to advise a potentially charged citizen that he should consider exercising his rights and seek counsel, or it could be a bit more sinister. Plea deals in the United States Courts have become the primary means of solution for the United States, as well as the individual States of the Union. Citizens who have been accused of criminal activity are often facing extremely long periods of incarceration. In the 02/05/2007 article from The Atlantic, written by Dylan Walsh, and titled “Why U.S. Criminal Courts Are So Dependent on Plea Bargaining,” reported, “...lengthy mandatory sentences, gives prosecutors inordinate leverage. If a defendant considers going to trial, a prosecutor might hang overhead some charge that carries a mandatory life sentence. A plea of guilty might instead get eight years, or 10 years, ‘pick your number,’” that article goes on to say,”Though plea-bargaining started in shadow-fixers, cops twisting inmates’ arms -it has since become judicial custom.”..... “Even if you have an innocent client, most don’t want to take that chance.”
While it appears that Paul Erickson is a poor businessman, and an irresponsible custodian of money, we will have to wait and see how this drama plays out. Will he betray his lover, yielding to a burden of enormous debts and criminal charges of fraud, passing bad-checks, or maybe even Treason, choosing instead to take a plea deal to save his own skin, one which requires him to implicate Mr. Butina, even if she is innocent? Will Ms. Butina experience betrayal instead of betrothal?
Note: As always, The Interrogator invites his readers to offer their opinion, constructive-criticism or cheap-shots.