In plea deal, Russian woman admits to being a secret agent
Dec 16, 2018, 02:08
The plea agreement was originally suppose to take place Wednesday but will now take place Thursday. With Torshin, she used pro-gun credentials to build relationships with top NRA figures.
Butina is also expected to provide information on Erickson.
"Butina sought to establish unofficial lines of communication with Americans having power and influence over United States politics", the prosecutor said in a Washington courtroom.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has explained why he thinks gun activist Maria Butina, jailed in the U.S., has made a deal with prosecutors: she wants to escape the torture-like conditions she is being kept in.
One of the two Americans referenced in the prosecution's criminal complaint was Paul Erickson, a conservative United States political activist who was dating Butina.
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Butina laid out her plans in a document called "Description of the Diplomacy Project", according to court documents; she wrote that she believed Russian Federation could not reinvigorate ties with the United States through official institutions.
The case has no connection with the Mueller inquiry into allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election in an attempt to secure victory for Donald Trump.
Prosecutors said Butina in March 2015 crafted something called the "Diplomacy Project" with help from "U.S. Person 1", and to carry out the plan, she requested $125,000 from a Russian billionaire to attend conferences and set up "separate meetings with interested parties".
"During the trip, the gun rights organization members met with high-level Russian government officials as arranged by" Torshin, according to court documents in the Butina case.
Butina's lawyer, Robert Driscoll, had previously decried the charges against her as "overblown" and said prosecutors criminalized her mundane networking opportunities. Butina was hiding in plain sight, making very little effort to hide her support for a closer relationship with Russian Federation. Prosecutors dropped one other charge as part of the plea deal.
The course she chose was via gun rights, building off Butina's history of shooting and gun ownership inside of Russian Federation. She wasn't wrong about that - the gun lobby spent tens of millions on behalf of Republican candidates. Trump's meeting with Putin that month inspired very different reactions on the right: the alt-right cheered Trump's positive rapport with the Russian president, while Sen. Torshin told her he didn't think the ministry would "go for it". Butina also faces the possibility she will be deported after she serves any prison sentence the judge choses to impose.
The court has not yet set a sentencing date, but set a status hearing for February 12, the Washington Post reported.
She is the first Russian citizen to be convicted of working to shape U.S. policy in the run up and through the 2016 election campaign, agreeing to co-operate with prosecutors for less prison time. "Butina predicted that the candidate nominated by Political Party #1 would likely win the upcoming USA presidential election".
But it's unclear how much Butina can offer to lift the veil on Russian influence operations. "I asked all the heads of our intelligence services what is going on", he said.
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