Alleged Russian agent and femme fatale Mariia (aka Maria) Butina was arraigned in federal court the other day. But she’s either the most incompetent spy ever, or perhaps someone is trying to make President Trump look even worse than he already does.

The Russia meddling story was already weird, but it keeps getting weirder. However, a lot of the weirdness seems to slide right under the radar. Maybe that is because the media are just overwhelmed, and don’t know where to turn first.

Here’s the latest bizarro tidbit. And though it is a tidbit, it raises all kinds of questions.

It concerns the alleged Russian agent and femme fatale Mariia (aka Maria) Butina, who was charged with conspiracy and illegally acting as an agent of a foreign government. Although she was not charged with espionage, she apparently kept in touch with Russian intelligence operatives — whether wittingly or not.

The most fascinating part is buried in paragraph 9 of a New York Times report headlined “Maria Butina, Suspected Secret Agent, Used Sex in Covert Plan, Prosecutors Say”:

Her contact list included an email account associated with the Federal Security Service, or F.S.B., the Russian intelligence agency that is the main successor to the Soviet K.G.B., and F.B.I. agents who searched her apartment found a handwritten note that read, “How to respond to F.S.B. offer of employment?” She was also photographed with the former ambassador at the Russian Embassy in Washington.

Have you ever heard of a spy — or anyone wanting to be a spy — who would write a “note to self” like that, and leave it around?

What about all of her fairly open meetings and communications with figures connected to the Kremlin? It is like all tradecraft was tossed out the window. In no way is this how things are done.

The whole case, including her behavior (staged?), almost sounds like her job was to put Trump MORE on the spot, to create a kind of extra-obvious smoking gun so Trump is even more vulnerable, and more easily manipulated.

Either that — or this is the most comical operation ever from the Russians, known for their caution and skill in spycraft.

The only thing the Russians could have added to make sure Comrade Trump twists slowly, slowly, in the wind, might be to have called Butina “Butt-insky” — a barely subtle reminder that, yes, “we did butt in” to the 2016 election.

Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from note (WINNING INFORMATION / Flickr – CC BY 2.0) and Mariia Butina (Pavel Starikov / Flickr – CC BY-SA 2.0).


  • Russ Baker

    Russ Baker is Editor-in-Chief of WhoWhatWhy. He is an award-winning investigative journalist who specializes in exploring power dynamics behind major events.

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