Since the shocking press conference on Monday during which President Trump discounted US intelligence agencies in favor of Russian President Putin’s assertions, lawmakers from both sides of the aisles and at every level of government have issued statements condemning the president’s actions and words that seemed to support Russia over US interests.
Senator John McCain of Arizona called it “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.”
Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming said she was “deeply troubled by President Trump’s defense of Putin against the intelligence agencies of the US and his suggestion of moral equivalence between the U.S. and Russia. Russia poses a grave threat to our national security.”
But New Mexico’s own Steve Pearce has been almost dead silent on the issue. Issuing only a generic rebuke of Russia’s “intimidation” on the world stage in an interview with the Albuquerque Journal, Pearce has not issued a single tweet, post, or press release about the issue at all.
While it’s possible Pearce is just attempting to ride out this most recent national media storm that is wreaking havoc on GOP candidates across the nation, there are some connections in Pearce’s past that demand further examination.
Let’s break this down:
- Hours after we all saw Trump throw US intelligence agencies under the bus, those same agencies arrested Maria Butina, a 29-year-old Russian woman who is charged with espionage.
- Butina apparently lived with someone originally identified as US Person 1, identified now as Paul Erickson.
- Erickson is a long-time GOP insider with a somewhat nefarious past but for the sake of our purposes, has deep connections to the Conservative Political Action Conference.
- Erickson was a member of the board of directors for CPAC in at least 2012 where he moderated a panel called “Engaging America Through Conservative Pop Culture.”
- Steve Pearce has attended CPAC on a few occasions, including that 2012 conference where he was interviewed by The Huffington Post in the halls of the conference.
- He also attended and spoke as a presenter in 2013 on a panel called “Has Atlas Shrugged: Business in Obama’s America.”
So Pearce and Erickson have been at the same place at the same time at least once that we know of, but there’s further information that’s worth considering.
A Mother Jones Article from last month begins: “For more than a year, reports have trickled out about deepening ties among prominent members of the National Rifle Association, conservative Republicans, a budding gun-rights movement in Russia—and their convergence in the Trump campaign.” This whole article is EXTREMELY in-depth in its look at how Russian agents, the NRA, and members of the GOP have become more and more close in the last decade and is especially shocking given Butina’s arrest this week.
- Again, for our purposes, let’s look at this entry from the article- September 2014: Paul Erickson—an NRA member and longtime conservative Republican operative from South Dakota—attends a Right to Bear Arms meeting in Moscow with Butina. Erickson has known Butina at least since 2013.
- Steve Pearce has made no bones about his deep connections to the National Rifle Association and at one point was one of the top ten recipients of NRA money for his campaigns.
- Pearce gave an interview to the NRA’s internal TV news organization at a CPAC event in Colorado in 2012 wherein he openly calls for New Mexicans to “take to the streets” in defense of the 2nd Amendment. Remember, Erickson was on the board of directors of CPAC in 2012. (EMBED THE ACTUAL VIDEO)
- Erickson, Butina, and a host of other Russian nationals have weaved their way into the NRA with money exchanging hands in both directions since that 2012 election.
For now, we know that Pearce likely knows Erickson, the man who lived with and connected a young Russian woman accused of using her influence to further financial and political sway between pro-gun Russian and US organizations and activists. What role Erickson has ever played for Pearce directly is unknown, but given the congressman’s deep pockets and generous donations from the NRA over the last decade, it’s certainly worth considering.
News of Butina’s arrest dominated news cycles yesterday and will likely produce a wealth of further information about who knew what, when, where, and how, but in the meantime, knowing Pearce has even a cursory relationship with this group might explain his locked lips on the whole affair up until now.