It is a tale as old as time: Russian gun-rights activist moves to America, where she meets the man of her dreams, a powerful GOP operative who’s as big of an adult Disney fan as she is.
This is the account a lawyer for Maria Butina is advancing — one that differs drastically from what federal prosecutors are saying: that Butina was a 29-year-old Russian spy who infiltrated Stateside political groups and traded sex for influence to “advance the interests of the Russian Federation.” (Which is, I guess, another tale as old as time.)
While federal prosecutors say that the alleged Russian spy has tried to “exploit personal connections with U.S. persons having influence in American politics,” Butina’s lawyer, Robert N. Driscoll, is arguing that her five-year relationship with Paul Erickson is the real deal.
“I think in some ways it’s a classic love story,” Driscoll said in an interview with ABC News last week, which aired Tuesday on Good Morning America. “I think [reporters] are filling in a lot of the gaps with a lot of spy novels.”
And the ways that reporters and the American government are filling in the gaps, in Driscoll’s opinion, are “unfortunate” and “sexist.” In the government’s complaint against Butina, the Russian national is accused of offering sex in exchange for power — a claim that Driscoll is disputing with a video of Erickson and Butina singing “Beauty and the Beast” together.
“I think you also look at this and say, ‘This looks pretty legitimate,’” Driscoll said. “At least I do. Maybe I’m a sucker for romance.”
The video evidence may not prove Butina’s complete innocence, but one point is inarguable: Someone would have to be seriously in love with you to agree to sing a Disney ballad on camera with you.