Maria Butina, the notorious Russian agent who admitted working with her American ex-boyfriend to infiltrate political circles in the US, is finally speaking out about her turbulent romance with conservative agent Paul Erickson.
Five years after her confession – in which, according to her plea agreement, she admitted to trying to “establish unofficial lines of communication with Americans who have power and influence in US politics” – Butina is back living in Russia as a media personality and Duma member. She was deported from the United States in 2019 after serving a fraction of her sentence for conspiring to be an unregistered foreign agent. Since then, the 34-year-old has become a prominent supporter of Russia’s war effort in Ukraine, criticized by some as such Kremlin propagandist.
In an interview with the Infamous Podcast Set to be published Thursday – a transcript of which was shared exclusively with The Daily Beast – Butina lamented the collapse of her five-year relationship with Erickson, who allegedly helped the Russian agent gain ties to the National Rifle through his ties to the National Rifle Association Association to create organization.
“It still hurts,” Butina told infamous host Paul Glader. “You love a person, you will soon marry a person who knows your parents and is so nice [and he] turns out to be a monster.”
Erickson, 61, was never charged with a crime related to the Butina case. However, in 2020, he was accused of running a fraudulent, years-long investment scheme related to housing projects in North Dakota. He pleaded guilty to the charges and was sentenced to seven years in prison – only to be pardoned by then-President Donald Trump less than a year later.
In her interview, Butina accused Erickson of spending thousands of dollars from her Russian bank account on herself while she was in prison – money that she said was transferred to her account by her parents to pay her legal fees.
The Daily Beast made multiple attempts to reach Paul Erickson for comment on this story but had not received a response at the time of publication.
‘Not very nice’
“He actually used my card because all his credit cards were canceled because of his FBI case. So they blocked everything,” she said. “I’m his girlfriend. I’m in prison. I face 15 years in solitary confinement. And no questions asked. He didn’t ask me or my parents, he just takes this money,” she continued.
The Daily Beast was unable to independently verify Butina’s claims. She said she learned of the alleged spending spree only after she asked Erickson for bank documents she needed for the legal case. She claimed he failed to hand over the documents despite repeated requests.
“Well, finally my sister contacted my lawyer and she handed the lawyer this piece of paper… and I saw all the payments,” she said, later adding, “I made the decision after your podcast came out to tell the truth, Denn Honestly, I don’t think he’ll stop. I don’t think he learned his lesson, I think by being pardoned.”
Butina was referring to an earlier episode of Infamous shared with The Daily Beast before publication that included an interview with Erickson, who apparently had better memories of Butina than of him.
“The greatest insult to her travails in the United States was that not only was she not a spy until she was treated harshly by the justice system, but she was also a potential future ally of America in global relations in a post-Putin world,” Erickson said in his interview published in May. “The government’s case against her was so flimsy,” he added in defense of his ex-girlfriend. “She was a reformer, an enemy of the state, a top 10 dissident.”
Speaking about their eventual split, Erikson had claimed that it was simply too difficult for them to continue their relationship given the legal issues plaguing the couple.
“When I was arrested… we just said: Yes, this is goodbye for now, until we no longer knew when, if at all. Because we couldn’t,” he said in the January 2021 interview. “Every communication, everything would have been monitored or used against her or against me.”
However, Butina seems to have a different perspective on the failure of their relationship.
“It’s not very nice to take and spend money on yourself that was actually intended for my lawyers and for my defense. So do I see it as a betrayal? In any case. And this is the most painful betrayal in my life,” she said.
Although she has continued her life in Russia, where she serves as a member of parliament and frequently attends Russian state media programs, Butina said in her interview that she “still can’t process the two people I know,” referring to her on Erickson. “The person I knew during my five-year relationship with him and… the person who lied to me when I was in prison.”
You can listen to this Infamous podcast here.