Butina case may help focus on Kremlin

Democrat Party leaders’ laser-focus on allegations that President Donald Trump cooperated with the Russian government to influence the 2016 election does a great disservice to the nation — and not just because the claims have been proven wrong.

Special counsel Robert Mueller and his team of investigators and prosecutors spent nearly two years investigating Trump and his associates. They found no proof of “collusion” between the president and Kremlin operatives. But they did find much more.

About a year ago, the Mueller team sought and got indictments against 13 Russian individuals and three entities backed by Vladimir Putin’s regime. They were accused of actively seeking to influence U.S. politics. Most of those indicted will never face trial because they are in Russia. Moscow has no reason to extradite them to the United States.

But last week one of the Russian agents who was apprehended here pleaded guilty in federal court to a conspiracy charge. Sentencing was set for April 26. The agent is Maria Butina, who tried to infiltrate conservative U.S. political groups, in the guise of being a gun-rights activist. Her mission was to sow discord among Americans.

Butina has agreed to cooperate with investigators looking into other Russian operations against the United States. If she is candid, we may learn more about the extent of Moscow’s meddling in our affairs.

Putin’s operatives enjoyed some success in hacking into computerized U.S. voter records. Their coup in using staged demonstrations and social media to pit American against American may have exceeded even Russian leaders’ expectations. It continues, though U.S. intelligence agencies and social media companies have had some success in thwarting the Kremlin.

But amid all the attention paid to accusations against Trump, many Americans may have missed the really important story about what really happened — and continues to occur — in regard to Russian meddling. Perhaps the Butina case will help restore focus where it belongs, on the Kremlin instead of the White House.