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MARTHA SEZ: ‘I hate to see someone’s career and reputation damaged … at random’

Well, I went home with the waitress

The way I always do

How was I to know

She was with the Russians, too?

–From “Lawyers, Guns and Money,” by Warren Zevon

Ever since the campaign for the 2016 United States presidential election, Russians keep popping up in our politics. Three mysterious women associated in different ways with Russia have been particularly unlucky in keeping out of the news; or perhaps they haven’t tried very hard.

In June 2016, Natalia Veselnitskaya lured Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort to a meeting at Trump Tower with promises of high-level, sensitive information that could be used to incriminate Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump’s opponent in the upcoming presidential race. The meeting was initiated by a Russian businessman close to Vladimir Putin. Disappointingly for the Trump campaign, the proffered information proved useless.

Veselnitskaya, as well as the Trump contingent, maintained that the meeting was about the Magnitsky Act and adoption of Russian children.

Eventually Veselnitskaya divulged in a news interview that since 2013 she had been an informant for Yuri Chaika, Russia’s prosecutor general.

Russian agent Maria Butina, at the age of 29, managed to infiltrate the National Rifle Association on behalf of the Russian government.

Butina was a gun enthusiast since childhood, in spite of strict Russian gun laws. She began working for the Russian government in 2015, and a year later she moved to the U.S. to attend graduate school at American University.

Butina’s mission was to forge ties with gun rights advocates and other U.S. conservatives, leading up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election. According to the FBI, Butina plotted to establish back channel communication with official figures in order to influence U.S. foreign policy in favour of Russia. Butina said that she believed the next U.S. president of the would be a conservative Republican.

She pleaded guilty to conspiring with a senior Russian official to infiltrate the conservative movement in the U.S. as an agent for the Kremlin from 2015 until her arrest in July, without reporting her activities to the Justice Department. A federal judge sentenced her to 18 months in prison, to include time already served. She was released a little early, In October 2019. The next day, she was flown to Russia.

The third, and final, woman is a different kettle of fish. While some people have conjectured that Tara Reade–also known as Alexandra Tara Reade and Tara McCabe–is a Russian agent, I seriously doubt that she is, and she has vehemently denied it.

To be an intelligence agent requires conviction, a steadiness of purpose, that, after considerable research, I do not believe she has.

Reade has been suspect because of her praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin, and because she has accused Joe Biden of sexual assault, coinciding with his becoming the presumptive presidential nominee for the Democatic Party.

Several purple passages Reade devoted to Putin appear in “Medium,” a social publishing platform and blog created by Evan Williams, a cofounder of Blogger and Twitter.

“Why a Liberal Democrat Supports Vladimir Putin,” dated Nov. 27, 2018, reads in part: “President Putin has an alluring combination of strength with gentleness. His sensuous image projects his love for life. … President Putin’s obvious reverence for women, children and animals, and his ability with sports is intoxicating to American women.”

In March 2019, Reade published another article in “Medium,” first in Russian and then in English, containing a quote from Putin’s press secretary celebrating the conclusions of the Mueller report. She wrote: “… I love Russia. I love my Russian relatives and friends. And like most women across the world, I like President Putin … a lot, his shirt on or shirt off.”

Confusing, because in 2017 Reade expressed admiration for Joe Biden’s cosponsorship of the Violence Against Women Act, and dislike of Putin. Her contradictions and inconsistencies over the years, on Biden and other subjects, make her difficult to pin down. Nothing makes sense.

On April 18, 2020, a previous employer accused Reade, in a tweet, of stealing from her horse rescue charity. Reade denies this.

Reade also now denies ever having liked Putin.

I will grant that none of this proves anything about Biden either way, but I hate to see someone’s career and reputation damaged apparently at random. As my friend Cora pointed out, “Joe Biden is no Geoffrey Epstein. He’s no–what’s his name? No Harvey Weinstein.”

That made sense.

Have a good week.