All professions have their own jargon and the profession of spying is no exception. In the spy biz, the “Honeypot Trap” refers to recruiting or compromising a target through sexual favors. The seducing spy is the “honeypot.” While I have no doubt our own intelligence services may have used Honeypot Traps on occasion, it was a known favorite technique of Russian intelligence agencies. In the Cold War Russia intelligence agencies dubbed male seducers “Ravens” and female seducers “Swallows” (seriously, I’m not making that up, even if it sounds to perfect to be true).
Recently one such Russian Swallow became a jailbird. Russian spy Maria Butina was arrested on July 15th. Her arrest appears to be unrelated to the Mueller probe, part of a completely separate investigation that began well before Mueller started his “Russiagate” probe.
A sworn arrest affidavit characterizes Butina as a Russian spy operating under the cover of a student at American University. The alleged mission for the attractive 29 year old was simple. She was to bribe and “swallow” her way into gaining influence with American conservative political and corporate leaders. Her approach was simple, clever and quite successful.
Butina started a Russian version of the NRA called “Right To Bear Arms.” At NRA National Conventions she used that to get the attention of NRA leaders, who apparently appreciated her attention. As you can see, Ms. Butina loves big guns.
The flirtatious Ms. Butina quickly became well known in NRA leadership circles. She was invited to elite NRA events, generally requiring high NRA donations to get into, that brought her into close contact with powerful politicians. Put simply, this Russian spy infiltrated the NRA to gain access to political influence, and certain high ranking members of the NRA were obviously happy to be infiltrated.
Outside of getting caught, Butina did a bang up job. She parlayed her connections with the NRA, into connections with other conservatives and religious organizations. These connections allowed her to get herself, her spymaster boss, and about ten other Russians invited to the February 2, 2017 National Prayer Breakfast, where newly elected President Trump attended and spoke. The purpose of their attending was to establish “a back channel communication” with American politicians (see paragraph 40 of FBI Affidavit).
While the FBI Affidavit supporting her arrest is mostly devoid of salacious details, there are hints of it. For example, take this excerpt, from paragraph 46 of the affidavit, describing an email Butina sent a few days after the National Prayer Breakfast:
46. On February 6, 2017, BUTINA emailed a National Prayer Breakfast organizer to thank him for “the gift of you [sic] precious time during the National Prayer Breakfast week — and for the very private meeting that followed . . . Once you have a chance to rest after last week’s events, I have important information for you to further this new relationship.”
In a motion seeking Butina’s pretrial detention (essentially asking the court to deny bail as she is a threat to flee justice) the government noted that “on at least one occasion, Butina offered . . . sex in exchange for a position within a special interest organization.”
Of course sex is not the only commodity to trade in the spy game. The FBI is reportedly still investigating whether Russia used Butina’s connections with the NRA to illegally funnel money to the Trump Campaign. Democrat Representative Adam Schiff claims Democrats sought to have Butina testify to the House Intelligence Committee regarding such possible payments. However, Republicans refused to allow it for fear such testimony might “tarnish the NRA.” There’s nothing more embarrassing than a gun tarnished by a Russian spy.
Sometimes the oldest tricks are still the best tricks. As the sordid details emerge of who did what with Maria Butina, more conservative embarrassment is sure to follow. For those wondering if the Russians might actually have tried to compromise Donald Trump (as claimed in the Steele Dossier) when he visited Moscow in 2013 for the Miss Universe Pageant, the story of Russian Swallow Maria Butina provides insight.