A Washington-based pro-gun activist affiliated with the National Rifle Association (NRA) has been charged with infiltrating US political organizations to spy on Russia’s behalf.
Maria Butina, a 29-year-old Russian pro-gun activist who lived in D.C., was arrested on Sunday and charged “with conspiracy to act as an agent of the Russian Federation within the United States without prior notification to the Attorney General.”
A Justice Department press release said Butina had been “developing relationships with US persons and infiltrating organizations having influence in American politics, for the purpose of advancing the interests of the Russian federation” at the direction a “high-level” Russian official.
“The court filings detail the Russian official’s and Butina’s efforts for Butina to act as an agent of Russia inside the United States by developing relationships with U.S. persons and infiltrating organizations having influence in American politics, for the purpose of advancing the interests of the Russian Federation,” the press release notes, citing the affidavit in support of the complaint.
“Butina worked at the direction of a high-level official in the Russian government who was previously a member of the legislature of the Russian Federation and later became a top official at the Russian Central Bank,” the DOJ continues, noting she did this type of work from as early as 2015 until at least February 2017.
Today Russian gun rights activist Maria Butina was charged with acting as an agent of the Russian government. Paragraph 31 of the criminal complaint quotes an explosive email about establishing a "VERY private line of communication" between the Kremlin and GOP via the NRA: pic.twitter.com/X2VNHobBlQ
— Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) July 16, 2018
The Hill notes:
Earlier this year, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee claimed that they have obtained documents that suggest Russia used the National Rifle Association (NRA) “to secretly fund Mr. Trump’s campaign.” Butina was named in the panel’s preliminary findings.
The Democrats identified Butina and Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of the Central Bank of Russia as two people of particular interest. Butina worked as an assistant to Torshin.
The DOJ press release alleges that Butina continued to work for this Russian official, who was sanctioned by the Treasury Department in April.
(MUST-SEE VIDEO) The Russian national who asked this question of Trump about sanctions, Maria Butina, was just charged with a major crime. There's *every possibility* that Trump knew this woman when he called on her—as her boss says he's a friend of Trump. https://t.co/GytXVfE5Fr
— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) July 16, 2018
Here's Trump in 2015, suggesting to Maria Butina (Russian crime boss Alexander Torshin's special assistant) that he would lift sanctions on Russia.
"I believe I would get along very nicely with Putin… I don't think you'd need the sanctions."
— Caroline O. (@RVAwonk) January 18, 2018