MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow has had much to say this week about Republicans and the vetting process. And having chastised the GOP over domestic violence allegations involving former Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, Maddow turned her attention to Vice President Mike Pence and another “vetting disaster” on Wednesday night — taking him to task for failing to vet his former national security advisor, Andrea L. Thompson (now serving as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security affairs).
Maddow noted that Thompson has had close relationships with admitted Russia agent Maria Butina as well as with Butina’s boyfriend, veteran GOP activist Paul Erickson — and that Thompson’s connection to Butina and Erickson was detailed by the Washington Post’s Josh Rogin in a June 19 report.
“The Marina Butina story is just nuts,” Maddow asserted, describing Butina’s connection to Russian government officials and her efforts to infiltrate and influence the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the Republican Party in favor of Russia. Maddow, describing Rogin’s Post report, noted that in June 2017, Butina “turned up at the wedding of Mike Pence’s national advisor” — and Erickson “was officiating the wedding.”
In the spring 2018, Maddow recalled, the U.S. Senate held confirmation hearings for Thompson, who had been nominated for undersecretary of state for arms control and international security affairs. And despite the fact that former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation was in full swing and Erickson was being investigated for allegedly trying to establish “secret backchannels to the Kremlin,” Maddow explained, Thompson’s connection to Butina and Erickson wasn’t even discussed at the confirmation hearings.
Maddow explained that as part of the position Thompson was nominated for, “you negotiate with Russia. You negotiate with the Russians on arms control treaties. That’s your job.” And Thompson, Maddow added, “never disclosed” to the Senate her ties to Butina or her husband, Wilbert H. Frazier’s Russian ties.
In his Washington Post article, Rogin pointed out, “To be clear, Thompson’s connections with Erickson are not a crime, and Erickson is innocent until proven guilty.”
Butina has been sentenced to 18 months in prison and will be deported back to Russia after serving her time.