Maria Butina and I, Part Deux: Romancing Maria | Deep Capture

At this point I am going to be discrete, other than to say that contact was re-established with Men in Black (I avoid using the “F” acronym for reasons that will become clear).

Why do I say, “re-established”? Because twice, over the decades, I have had the honor of helping them. Why would a (flag-waving) libertarian ever help feds? I will explain:

  1. I had a great friend named Brian Williams. In 2002 he was murdered. I helped bring the killer to justice, in a manner of speaking. Numerous sensationalist TV reenactments have been made, which should all be skipped. A surprisingly well-written story appeared in Sports Illustrated some years ago (“Lost Soul” by Chris Ballard) about Brian’s life and death that captures Brian’s spirit. It alludes to some minor involvement I had in helping the authorities sort it out. It was my honor to do so.
  2. On August 23, a United States Attorney named Brett Tolman appeared on Fox News with Dan Bongino (a retired federal officer, who was guest hosting for Hannity). At minute 1:25 Mr. Tolman says something about me:

“I know Patrick Byrne. I‘ve known him for years. I spent 45 minutes on the phone with him today talking about it. When he indicates that he has previously worked for the FBI and provided information, he is telling the truth. Back in 2005-2006 I was Chief Counsel at the Senate Judiciary Committee, and he brought to us inside information about manipulation that was going on in Wall Street. It turned out that it was accurate, and it was investigated, and it became part of a much larger investigation. So my experience with him is very fascinating, because while he’s eccentric, he has been accurate historically with me and with others.”

To understand what is going on now, it is not necessary to read all the backstory about Wall Street and me from years ago (but if you wish, you are on the site to do it). Just know this: whenever I told the story publicly, I always left something out. I always said that I had gone to DC in 2005-2006 trying to get help exposing Wall Street but had found it captured, “turtles all the way down.” That was never the full truth. The truth is, the Senate Judiciary Committee was fantastic. Members and staff of both parties were great to me. Like me, they were curious not just about the underlying matter I was bringing to them (which is that I thought we had a crack in the national capital market’s settlement system, and it might quake at any moment: indeed, on October 23, 2008, Greenspan identified “settlement” as one of the three main culprits in the crisis). Like me, they were also curious about the reaction (or lack thereof) on the part of the government that should have been reacting back in 2005-2006.  

That’s because, as the committee overseeing any activity in the USA touched by a criminal or civil penalty, the Senate Judiciary Committee has oversight jurisdiction on everything related to corruption. I swam around on Wall Street 2005-2009 drawing fire from the Establishment so that the FBI could watch who was going after me, and put together the hedge funds, regulators, and journalists who seemed to be in cahoots.

In the autumn of 2009, I was called one morning by a Man in Black, who said words I will treasure to my dying day: “Patrick, the Bureau wishes to thank you for what you have done. It is almost unprecedented. You are going to see handcuffs come out this week. You need to live the rest of your life knowing that everyone you see us arrest suspects your fingerprints are on his problems.”

A few days later, Raj Rajaratnam of Galleon was arrested. He was the first of about 200 indictments (and more than 100 people who went to prison). Take a look at the photos showing perps being walked out of hedge funds in handcuffs. Each was walked out by the same guy, a solid-looking, square-jawed Korean-American FBI agent. That’s the guy who uttered those words to me above. He’s the Eliot Ness of the FBI.

That all happened with the FBI because in 2005 I found a single group in Washington DC that would listen to me and my tales of what I knew was happening on Wall Street: the Senate Judiciary Committee. And on that committee, before he became a US Attorney, was a young Bret Tolman. Without the beard. And he saw what he described above.

So those are the two times I was honored to provide modest help to the Men in Black.  

I intend to be fuzzy about Men in Black, but I would like to be clear about one thing: they are men and women, white, black, Latino, and other — some look like Captain America, some like Serpico, some look like librarians — and I came to respect them in the same way I do the young men or women I see in uniform at airports, trying to make a flight. That sounds funny for a libertarian to say, I suppose, but remember, libertarians like consent of the governed. And once that consent has been found, we like rule of law, because what’s the point of going to all the trouble of finding out what law the governed consent to, if that’s not the law that gets enforced? Lack of rule of law undermines our whole liberal “consent of the governed” thing.

More importantly, 30-35 years ago I wandered around Asia and saw a lot of things. I also studied development economics as a grad student at Stanford. My big takeaways were:

  1. Economic development is about raising the income of women, not men.
  2. Without rule of law, economic development occurs in quicksand.
  3. Liberalism is best.

That it. That’s my 20’s, boiled down.

Popular culture makes fun of federal officers for being strait-laced, stiff, and formal. It’s true they don’t much care about being your friend: they just want the facts. Yet at times that is a relief, such as when your closest friend has disappeared, or when you put together a criminal financial plot that you think may collapse Wall Street. In such times, that is precisely what you want, even if you never knew it before. You learn that you want a formal, stiff, unsmiling character looking at you across a table in gray room with a legal pad. Even though it generally means putting up with getting pushed around and accused of things that had never occurred to you or even would occur to you. It’s the price we pay for rule of law. Try living without it.

Here’s a warning, however, that was passed to me by a lawyer years ago: trying to help feds can be like helping a tiger that has got its paw caught in a trap. So you might just use their quite adequate website, I never plan on talking to feds again. If I do, I’ll likely be in an orange jumpsuit. But if I do, I want to help them work on the algorithms in that website.

Anyway, my explanation to the people in the Administrative Office of Personnel looking after three million security clearances triggered the following event: the Men in Black and I were back in touch. The details of everything related to how those communications occurred will be omitted (other than to say that, initially, was it partially face-to-face, but by December 2015 it was entirely face-to-face).

All I wanted to know was, if I went to Russia and met with their liberals, would I have to get hassled about it when I returned? And could I introduce her to someone in our foreign policy establishment, like 93-year-old General Vessey? Or need I cut her out of my life?   They seemed to suggest that I should learn more, and then they would decide. But they emphasized that they were not sure. Messages went back and forth for two months.

Meanwhile, Maria was writing me, inviting me to meet in Montenegro, then Rome, Paris, etc. Watching my videos on liberalism. Pretending to fall in love, to create a reason to meet again and talk. But meanwhile, I was being told half-heartedly, “Well maybe it’s OK, but we’re not sure…”

Finally, in September of 2015 I received something that sounded like they wanted me to meet her again. It started occurring to me; “Do they want me to meet her without having to take responsibility? Damn, then are they are going to show up in a year, act shocked, interrogate me endlessly, accuse me of this and that? Screw that, that’s the kind of thing that happened that other time.”  

In an effort to make things clear, I sent a binary message along the lines of: Not wanting to get in a hassle with the U.S. government, I am not going to meet Maria again unless I hear the word, “Greenlight.”

They responded: “Greenlight.”

I was mildly surprised, but pleased.* I have played a minor, minor role in three peace events in my life (and though I critique Chomsky sometimes, the credit for one of them must be given to him and his writings on East Timor). I thought it might be possible that Maria Butina, a liberal from Russia, with all her connections, might be a good person to get to know. I have seen stranger events lead something good – including to peace.

So in September 2015 Maria and I met for a second time in a hotel in New York City, with the idea that we would spend a few days getting to know each other, plan a trip to Russia to talk at their Central Bank on bitcoin and how blockchain will change the world, and to meet her liberal friends in Moscow among the oligarchs.

Of course I got two rooms, but to be consistent with her faux-romantic texts I arranged a two-bedroom suite. She was arriving first, and I assumed that when I arrived, we would laugh about the pretense and take separate rooms.

A gentleman does not normally say, but it would be ridiculous to omit, given how germane it is: when I arrived, Maria made immediately clear that she had not been pretending. She had indeed watched all my videos, and thought I was pretty cool. She, the Greater Moscow Powerlifting Champion (amateur) swept me and my liberalism off my feet. I was helpless, helpless I say….

Well, not really. About the “helpless” part, anyway. The rest is true. And I will say this: Maria is a spectacular woman. An unforgettable woman. Great props to Mother Russia. Respect. A gentleman shouldn’t say but…Wow.


To keep Church Ladies from hammering me on message boards, and because it is relevant: For Maria’s part, she sounded like there were some big-shot Republicans in her life in America she was seeing, she was back and forth to Russia, nothing was too serious, etc. I didn’t really pry.

For my part: I am a lifelong bachelor. I didn’t plan it that way, I’m 56, there were some end-of-life issues since I was 22, and it just turned out that way. I give great tryst. I have no Act III whatsoever, but my Acts I and II are dynamite. So again I find myself saying (because my editor tells me that I sound strange to some): Sorry, but this is just my life. Stuff like this happens to me. All the time, frankly, if I let it. I don’t make the rules.

So at the end of our first three day tryst, I proposed the following: “Look I know you are a young gal, making your way in America. Tell you what: from time to time, when you get tired of hanging out with Republican big-shots, give me a call. Every six weeks or so suits me just fine. Pick a city you want to see while you’re in America, like Miami, or San Francisco, I’ll just send you a ticket and we’ll make a weekend of it.” She smiled in agreement.


Let us get past the salacious part, and to the important part. After a weekend in New York, learning about whom she knew and what her thinking was, I rated the odds as:

Again, I am not going to go into forms of communication with the Men In Black, but would like to share the substance. The problem is, though, that at this point reality split in two, and I was not sure which was the real reality. Here were the choices:

I saw Maria sporadically every 4-6 weeks (+/-?) from September 2015 through March 2016. Over time, Maria’s pillow talk became less about John Locke and John Stuart Mill, and more about the political circles in which she was coming to swank around. As a result, by March my estimation of the risks had changed from 2/3 – 1/3 to 1/3 – 2/3.

By November-December, 2015 she let me know that Torshin had told her to focus on Hillary, Rubio, Cruz, and Trump. Whichever of the four won, she was to have a contact in their administration. Torshin had decided that there was no chance Bernie would win, so Maria was not to spend any time trying to meet anyone in his camp.

If there was one flicker of interest from the US Government, it was in hearing that about Hillary. However, after another tryst somewhere, I let the Men In Black know that Maria had indeed checked off meeting someone in Hillary’s circle (I forget who), and intended from then on to focus entirely on Cruz, Rubio, and Trump.  At that point, any interest in the USG went (as far as I could tell) to 0. Absolute 0.  They just acted like I was paranoid to think there was anything strange about this: Why are you so concerned about this Russian graduate student, anyway? And why do you think she would be interesting to introduce to someone in our foreign policy circles?

By December, 2015, or January, 2016 at the latest, a thought was crossing my mind: They are being so indolent about reacting to Maria. It is almost like they are letting this develop on purpose. Since the moment they learned Hillary was no longer on Maria’s list, but checked off, they just have had an attitude of sitting back and letting this Can-O-Scandal emerge. Like someday, whenever they want to, they are going to grab it, shake it up, pop it open, and spray it on the Republicans ……. That’s absurd. That’s crazy. This is America. Director Comey would not do that. President Obama would not do that.

Somewhere in March, 2016, as I recall, Maria began telling me of an up-and-coming meeting that was being arranged (she hoped) with Donald Trump, Jr. There was some convention of conservatives coming up in the South, and her Republican big-shot friends were making special arrangements for Don Jr. to be taken surreptitiously to meet her, she whispered excitedly. I knew the time and place. Obviously, that was something that should not happen, so I let the Men In Black know about it and proposed that I whisk Maria off to Bahamas for that weekend.

To my great surprise, they told me: Back off. We’re going to let it happen. I could not quite believe it. They brought someone to explain: sometimes when foreign spies come here we just hang back and let them roam, watching them, see who they make contact with. That did not sound right to me. Maybe it could be true if someone was trying to steal our nuclear codes, and we needed to learn how, I suppose. But if some foreign agent is here schmoozing around, and it is the act of the schmoozing around that creates the compromises and troubles… why let her do it? (My understanding from a journalist named Seth Hettena is that in May, 2016, in Kentucky, at a convention of NRA, Maria was at a private dinner with a number of people, and among them was Don Jr. Perhaps briefly only. I do not know for sure, but it sounds like this was the evolution of what Maria had spoken about to me around March-April, 2015, just before we broke up the first time).

Around the end of March, 2016, Maria called me excitedly: there was an upcoming conference in St. Petersburg, Russia. Just two weeks away. It was major, being hosted by the Ministry of Finance (or something similarly grand). She had made arrangements for me to have a key speaking slot, on the subject of Bitcoin and Liberalism. I would speak, and then since President Putin was in St. Petersburg the same day (he may have been speaking at the same conference), it had been scheduled that I would have 60 minutes alone with President Putin (with Maria as translator).

As a Milton Friedman guy, who can not only tell you the difference between PPS 23 and NSC 68, he can tell you what’s wrong with Chomsky’s critique of the former, getting a chance to meet President Putin would have been a matter of great interest to me. Of course it would have been an honor. My sense is also that he is quite intellectual: if so, it would also have been a chance to ask him questions and perhaps engage in some Miltonesque mind-openers with him (and he with me). Maybe that “peace” football that we liberals like could have been inched forward a bit more.

Instead, the Men In Black came and told me Maria has been analyzed, she is just another grad student, but going to Russia to meet Putin is too dangerous, and we want you to break up with her. Get Maria out of your life.

So I did.* Roughly, by text. Curtly. Simply told her I was tired of being “the other guy”. What was she going to say to that? It was unlike me not to be kinder. The truth was, however, right then I was Stage IV of two things at once. One of them had a 6 – 36 month prognosis (and I was 9 months in), absent successful intervention, of which the odds were 23%; the other had a 12 month prognosis absent surgery that might buy me 3 years. So it was a bad time anyway. Thus, when I was told to cut her out of my life, I did. Just like that.*

After that (as I mentioned the other night on TV), I was on the edge of a corruption investigation of a federal official. It was the edge, yet it gave me enough of a view to see what was going on. It ended unsatisfactorily, in precisely the way one would not want to see a corruption investigation end. But I walked away and forgot about it.*

*_ I am going to do something unusual, and place my asterisk not at the end, but in the middle of an essay. The same “herd of independent minds” who go into contortions whenever I use a metaphor like “Sith Lord” will likely turn blue over me putting an “*” in an unusual place, but I’ll dare it anyway. This would be a good time to tell you that where I used an “*’ above, I am leaving something key out. If you picked up that I went along with things in a way that does not seem completely plausible, pat yourself on the back. That part of the explanation will be revealed a long way down the road, if ever.

So those six months of occasional trysts with Maria resolved themselves in a way that felt…. odd. Six months of trying to yenta to the US foriegn policy establishment a Russian liberal intellectual who was chosen by Mikhail Kalashnikov to lead an organization he founded hear his death, and who came with such an odd invitation for me, and spoke of a meeting with Don Jr.…. And the Men In Black dismissed her as just another grad student? It just seemed sketchy. Call me madcap. And so did the corruption investigation of a federal official that followed. That also ended…. oddly.

Which is why some months later, around July 1, 2016, when the Men In Black showed up with an unusual (and for them, distressing and appalling) instruction… I was ready.  After emphasizing to me that this never happens in the United States, we are the good guys and we really do not play like the bad guys, never in their careers had they heard of the United States  asking a citizen to sleep with someone to get information….. they wanted to ask me to rekindle a romantic relationship with Maria Butina. I had every right to say “no” and no one would think worse of me. But Russia was to trying to subvert our election, and I was to get to the bottom of Maria Butina. “Gloves off.” The entire chain of command was being skipped. The request came from X and Y and Z. Was I willing? (I want to emphasize, the Men In Black are honorable men and women, and they were extremely discomfited by the request. There was no leering. They felt horrible. I think they wanted me to refuse it. They insisted that in their careers they heard never heard of such a request. But this was coming from X, Y, and Z.)

I told them , Yes I’ll do it.*

At this point, I will draw this chapter of my narrative to a close, and end with some suggestions for my dear fellow citizens to know:

  1. I do not maintain that Maria did nothing wrong. She…. Well, she traveled around and had a lot of dinners and backroom meetings with big-shots, mostly Republicans . She took pictures and put them on Facebook. And she did all this while taking suggestions from an official back in Moscow, and whether or not Torshin is in Putin’s camp, or really a liberal, Torshin is a Russian Senator, and the law says that taking direction from any official of another government (whether or not said official is acting alone or at direction of the chain of command) is illegal. Thus, if one wants to be a Philadelphia lawyer about it, Maria broke the law about being an unregistered foreign agent (as does half of Washington, incidentally). So it would untrue to say she did nothing wrong.
  2. However, it is also true that the USG knew she was having those meetings all along, generally before she had them. From me. They let it all happen, on purpose, I promise. They played dumb but they were just playing me for a fool (talk about a two-inch putt). Still, having the prosecutor stand up in court and speak of the grave damage Maria did to our national security by having those dinners seems a tad churlish, given that they knew about Maria from the day in July, 2015 she landed here, and generally knew about all those meetings before they happened, and just let them all happen. Remember, our court sentenced Maria to 18 months in a box about the size of your shower stall. Many nations consider anything over three months in solitary, “torture”. Maria did 10 months before I went in and talked to the DOJ (again, whether my doing so was a factor in her move to a nicer women’s facility in Florida, I am unsure, but I am grateful, and I hear from her lawyer that she spends all day outside). I recall when I was in college, and we would hear about some American college kid who did some bonehead kid thing in the USSR, or North Korea, and they’d ship him home 5 years later howling from a burlap sack. To some degree we’ve become those guys….. Who did that to us? How did it happen?
  3. Were the prosecutor and judge in on things? Did the prosecutor know the truth? How about the judge? According to some, she is a defendant’s judge, and in her career as a judge she has always forced prosecutors to compromise: this is her first case, they add, that she demanded the prosecutor up the penalty. Both prosecutor and judge were appointed in 2012-2016. Do your own research (and look into where the prosecutor was married) before deciding.
  4. The Men In Black are not the problem. They were hijacked from above. They are great Americans, just like the folks you see in uniforms in airports. They really are. And there’s not a dud among them: they are crisp, white-shirted professionals like one rarely finds in corporate America anymore. They had some bad leadership. They were used, too, and I think I was in the room when they figured it out. It all came from the top. I was repeatedly told, These instructions are skipping the chain of command, and are coming personally from X, Y, and Z. That is why I do not even like using the “F” acronym about this. It hardly seems fair. These orders were not originating within their bureaucracy. And they seemed quite nonplussed about it all.
  5. If it is true that my April 30, 2019 conversation with DOJ had anything to do with Maria’s May 9 move after 10 months in box in a SHU unit to a nice(r) women’s prison in Florida, I am grateful, and I am sure Maria is as well. Nothing federal happens in 9 days, normally. It seems reasonable for the DOJ to have decided to move her but keep her in custody until they sort this mess out.
  6. It is absolutely not true that I am taking credit for Mr. Durham’s investigation. I am so sorry if it sounded that way in a TV interview. I meant only to be reciting dates. I was tired and unguarded and emotional (as I had just left my firm of 20 years). I should have explained then that I did not know if the dates connected.
  7. While it is true that Mr. Durham’s investigation was announced May 13, I had 0 contact other than on April 5 and 30. I have had no contact with Mr. Durham. Also, my sense is that Mr. Durham’s investigation started on its own before me. My sense, in fact, is that there are a number of whistleblowers like me within the federal system. Mine may well be an insignificant part of the whole tale. I hope so.
  8. If you are a sizeable Hillary supporter in Hollywood, political espionage was conducted against you. Somebody back East wanted to know who you were and how you acted at her expensive fundraisers.
  9. Maria belongs back in Russia, a hero. Her running for president someday would be the best thing that could happen to Russia or the US. Imagine a Russian president who knew US history and the constitution better than our own did. And wouldn’t it be funny if that aspect of Russian Orthodoxy came true, that not through the suffering of all Russians, but of one Russian woman who came here wanting to find people who read Hayek, that something tremendous happened?
  10. For example, perhaps this will wake us up from the delusion that has gripped our land. Vladimir Putin is living rent-free in your brain, America. No one is denying that he and his people performed some mischief (though whether Maria was related to that or not, and if so, how wittingly, is another question). It is an aspect of hybrid warfare, and yes, Putin did it to us. Please know that the last time I met any of the Men In Black, back in March, 2017, they let me know precisely that. Putin had built enough cobwebs into enough corners here so that whoever had won, Putin was going to be able to pull a trigger and cause an uproar here. Get us all chasing our tails and each others’ tails. No matter who won. There’s even a name for it, an intelligence operation that seeds disorder and doubt and chaos. However, remember the grifter’s saying, “You cannot con an honest man.” What has gone wrong in our country that this would have worked as it did?
  11. Why am I coming forward? There are citizens who already ask me, “If you knew this, how could you have stayed silent so long?” There will be people with badges and guns who tell me that coming forward was a horrible (nay, felonious) thing for me to have done, that it hurt their work. All I can say is that I thought I had a few shards of a much bigger puzzle, and I kept waiting for the authorities putting the puzzle together to come ask me for my shards. Then last summer, watching YouTube, I saw Congress rip some senior FBI officials apart, and what got public there fit so well with my shards I knew they weren’t shards anymore, they were some of the big missing pieces. So I only got it figured out around this time last summer. And we did not even have rule of law until we got an Attorney General on February 14.  I’ve tried to do the right thing since then, but I can second-guess myself, too. Some will still tell me that I should never have come forward…. Yet every mass killing we have, I think, It cannot be the right thing to do, to stay silent for another day. No matter what the feds now know and are working on, staying silent for another day cannot be right. Our country is going nuts.

Friends of both sides share their fears with me. No one knows what to believe because no one has had the facts before, and the country seems to be sinking into something we have not experienced in 150 years. But the facts are there was political espionage conducted against Hillary and her supporters, Cruz, Rubio, and Trump. That’s not “a theory”. I was there. I saw it. If those four were not all warned by December, 2015, that in Moscow someone had decided to target them with Maria Butina, then someone was deliberately letting Maria smudge them up. And if some were warned and some not, then that is a different kind of political espionage. Certainly, the same goes for Don Jr. and all the other people Maria was deliberately allowed to meet after July 2015: USG knew about Maria (from me) the day (after) she landed, and of every meeting she went on to have. From me. Before she had them.

In addition, remember that you have not yet read what I have not gotten to, that part concerning an investigation of a federal official, and what I did regarding Maria when they came back in July, 2016, asking me to rekindle our romance to get information. In brief: by October – December 2016 Maria wanted to leave DC, her boyfriend, her grad school, and come to Utah to live with me and finish here. I was told not to let that happen, to keep her from leaving DC, so she would stay immersed doing…. well, all those things that two years later they charged her for doing because it damaged national security so much. That’s for starters.

And you may not hear more. Not from me, anyway. My purpose has been simply to re-orient the national conversation, because both sides are Stuck on Stupid.

The Democrats are correct: there was a basis to begin the Russian investigation. It was me, jumping up and down since July, 2015, saying that  something Russian going on here, and it was either good (Russian liberals wanted some backchanel into the next adminsitration), or bad (this was all an FSB operation). In fact, there was such a good reason to open an investigation, that  by December, 2015 I was thinking, “Someday I am going to be sitting in front of a Senate panel trying to account for how they did not open an investigation into Russia coming here to meddle in our election, if only because of the real possibility of that being Maria’s game.” By January 2016 it seemed crazy to me that they had not opened an investigation.

But the Republicans are also correct: law enforcement was used as a weapon of politics. Yet what Republicans have not understood is that it was was turned against Hillary Clinton, too. I am not saying that to make her a victim. I am telling the truth. But I am not revealing how they targeted her.

I am hoping that people will stop shooting each other and themselves over this. There is an answer on its way. America is not doomed to end like a Thomas Pynchon novel, with interpretations shifting to interpretations endlessly hinting at connections that melt into vapor. There is in fact an investigation going on into all of this. What I told you about Maria Butina here is all iron-clad. What I have sketched out regarding other things, and what happened in that second period with Maria, is as bad. I am but one of many people who are coming forward with these stories, which were pure political espionage. Don’t assume it was President Obama behind it, either: we are talking about the “Deep” State, remember (plus, for the record, I like Obama: I did not vote for him, I did not agree with 70% of what he did, but I thought he and his family brought dignity and class to the office, and I hope he was not involved).

So stop fighting. An answer is on its way. The gibberish is coming to an end. You are going to know the answers. Not from me. But from the guys with badges and guns. At last.

NB It has been about a decade since I blogged regularly. I am rusty. Years ago it often was my habit to post a blog then fiddle with it for an hour. I have done so with this. Consider this final as of 3:23 PM on Tuesday, 8/27 (Mountain Time). If you read any version in the last little while before this, it was not the final version.