On Monday, accused Russian spy Maria Butina cut a cooperating plea deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, after a few weeks of increasingly loud hints that she was planning to do so.
The move is bad news for Donald Trump, the NRA, John Bolton, Dana Rohrabacher, and a number of other people. But as it turns out, it’s really bad news for Butina’s handler in the Russian government.
Court documents revealed that Maria Butina was taking direct instructions from Vladimir Putin’s ally Aleksandr Torshin, who has previously held high positions in the Russian government, and has most recently been a top official in a Putin-controlled Russian bank.
But ten days ago, just as news reports were getting louder that Butina was about to flip, Torshin quietly “resigned” from the bank out of the blue. Now Rachel Maddow is reporting on MSNBC that Torshin appears to have vanished entirely.
The Russians probably realized that Maria Butina was about to begin giving people up, and Torshin is one of the top people involved in it, so it’s not difficult to parse what’s happened here. Either Torshin went into hiding out of fear of Putin, or Putin told him to go into hiding, or Putin had him killed. Take your pick, but one of Putin’s very top people in his own government has just essentially disappeared.
This tells you just how costly and dangerous the Trump-Russia scandal is becoming on Vladimir Putin’s end. That’s before getting to whichever American participants were just given up by Maria Butina.
One thing is clear: Next year is looking like a year of reckoning for Trump and his allies.