Recent court filings indicated that Maria Butina, the 30-year-old Russian spy who gained access to the National Rifle Association (NRA) by engaging in a sexual relationship with conservative lobbyist Paul Erickson, would be pleading guilty to unspecified charges.
While we expected she would plead guilty, it remained to be seen if she would agree to cooperate with an ongoing investigation.
According to ABC News, Butina's plea agreement does include a provision that requires her cooperation.
Maria Butina, a 30-year-old Russian gun rights activist who stands accused developing a covert influence operation in the United States, has agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy and cooperate with federal, state and local authorities in any ongoing investigations.
She admits, as part of the deal, according to a copy obtained by ABC News that is expected to be filed to the court, that she and an unnamed “U.S. Person 1,” which sources have identified as longtime Republican operative Paul Erickson, with whom she had a multiyear romantic relationship, “agreed and conspired, with a Russian government official (“Russian Official”) and at least one other person, for Butina to act in the United States under the direction of Russian Official without prior notification to the Attorney General.”
Paul Erickson's lawyers were recently informed by federal investigators that their client is under investigation and could be indicted.
It seems like a safe bet that Butina has agreed to flip against Erickson.
People who would know better than I do have speculated that Butina has been instructed by the Russian government to flip against Erickson and accept a light sentence so she can be exchanged for someone else.
I don't know if that's true, but federal prosecutors would only offer Butina a plea agreement if she could offer them a bigger fish. The big fish could be Erickson or it could even be someone above him within the NRA's hierarchy.
Like Michael Cohen, Butina has not been charged by special prosecutor Robert Mueller. Butina's case is being handled by federal prosecutors in Virginia while Cohen's case is being handled by prosecutors in New York. The greater investigation has already been spread around too many offices for it to be easily disappeared by firing Mueller. It's possible that's why Trump hasn't moved to fire Mueller. Mueller isn't even the most immediate threat to Trump or conservative power circles right now.