Maria Butina was a Russian lobbyist. If there was possibly any other believable evidence of any other covert schemes on her part, they would have been leaked all over the media. There hasn’t been. She’s essentially been handed an 18-month sentence for failing to register as a foreign lobbyist. Should Tony Podesta get twice as much for his dealings with the Ukraine and with some of the same people Manafort worked for?

He won’t of course, and in a sick way that should give some small measure of comfort. The fact that her tough sentencing is merely a hypocritical way to somehow justify the Russia collusion narrative. A narrative that should be under ground and not moving but keeps getting yanked up to the surface and shot through with voodoo mojo to keep it wandering through editorial rooms and media sites like a ghost of scandals past.

But one should be careful to hope this is a onetime thing and will disappear when President Trump moves out of the White House, although one doubts that these collusion myths will ever die. But there’s a much more serious and long-lasting consequence to this.

When you set a precedent in an English-common-law-based legal system, it settles in and becomes nearly impossible to uproot with every passing judgement that builds on that precedent. And there most definitely a legal precedent being set here:

A foreign lobbyist in America now has to prove they are not a spy.

Do the two professions meet and mingle in places like D.C? Of course they do. But there seems to be a disturbing lack of evidence of Butina actively engaging in any form of espionage, rather than somewhat naïve attempts at winning friends and influencing people in the city where it is most valued out of anywhere on planet Earth. Here’s what the prosecution said last week when they called for an 18-month sentence, a sentence that Judge Tanya Chutkin upheld this week:

(Butina)was not a spy in the traditional sense of trying to gain access to classified information to send back to her home country. She was not a trained intelligence officer … [but her] actions had the potential to damage the national security of the United States.

These are chilling words. Potentially – if this precedent is upheld and by the sound of Butina’s legal team and her own “confession” in court over how she destroyed her life by not registering as a Russian agent there likely will not be any appeal – then any foreign investigative journalist, any academic, or any businessperson who’s looking to establish connections could be accused of conspiring with someone in their own country and by so doing potentially harm America’s interests.

And the media is happy to go along with the ride because it seems like a juicy morsel in the endless effort to keep the zombie collusion theory going. Here’s the BBC:

Butina began travelling to the US for NRA conventions, apparently armed with a plan called The Diplomacy Project, aimed at setting up unofficial channels aimed at influencing US policy.

In 2015 she attended a Trump campaign event in Las Vegas, asking the presidential candidate about his views on US sanctions in Russia.

In December 2015 she invited NRA officials to Moscow, and they held meetings with “high-level Russian government officials” organised by Mr Torshin.

Alexander Torshin is a former Russian Senator and Deputy Central Bank Governor. Here’s the BBC again:

Mr Torshin was placed under US Treasury sanctions in April, and is being investigated by the FBI over allegations of funnelling money to the NRA to aid the Trump campaign.

Although unnamed in the plea deal, Mr Torshin is clearly the Russian with whom Butina has admitted conspiring.

By this measure Christopher Steele should be on Interpol’s most wanted list with an extradition order and a seat next to Julian Assange on the next Black-Ops overnight flight to Washington from London. Steele isn’t and never will be.

But this petty and nasty warning shot across Russia’s bow will have legal and political consequences for a long time to come. There are better ways to tell Putin and his spies to screw off than to hammer a kid from Siberia who likes guns and the NRA. Even if she could have become a bona-fide Russian agent at some point.

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