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Mariia Valeryevna Butina (Russian: Мари́я Вале́рьевна Бу́тина, sometimes transliterated as Maria Butina or Mariya Butina; born November 10, 1988) is a Russian woman who pled guilty to conspiracy to act as a foreign agent, in connection with unregistered political lobbying in the United States.[3][4][5]

Maria Butina
Maria Butina.jpg
Butina in 2014
Native name
Мари́я Вале́рьевна Бу́тина
Born
Maria Valeryevna Butina

(1988-11-10) November 10, 1988 (age 30)
NationalityRussian
Alma mater
Conviction(s)Conspiracy to act as an unregistered foreign agent of the Russian state
Criminal penalty18 months in prison

Beginning in 2011, she worked as an assistant for Aleksandr Torshin, a former member of the Federation Council, a member of Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party, and a deputy governor of the Central Bank of Russia.[6] In this role, she worked to infiltrate conservative groups in the US, including the National Rifle Association, as part of an effort to promote Russian interests in the 2016 United States presidential election.[6][7][8] In April 2018, Butina told the Senate Intelligence Committee that Konstantin Nikolaev, a Russian billionaire, provided funding for her gun-rights group.[9]

In July 2018, while residing in Washington, D.C., Butina was arrested by the FBI and charged with acting as an agent of the Russian Federation "without prior notification to the Attorney General."[10] In December 2018, she pled guilty to felony charges of conspiracy to act as an unregistered foreign agent of the Russian state under 18 U.S.C. §951.[11][12][13][14][15]

On April 26, 2019, a federal judge sentenced her to 18 months in prison.[16]

Early life and educationEdit

Butina was born on November 10, 1988, in the Siberian city of Barnaul, in Altai Krai, about 210 miles (340 km) north of the present Kazakhstan–Russia border. Her mother was an engineer and her father was an entrepreneur who established a furniture manufacturing business in Barnaul.[17] She grew up in the Siberian taiga—large boreal forests—where her father introduced her to guns and taught her to hunt.[12] Butina said: "It is a rare Siberian who can imagine himself without a rifle in the home."[18]

She studied political science at Altai State University and also received a teaching degree. At 19, she was elected to the public council of Altai Krai in the last direct election for the council.[17][19]

Business and politics careersEdit

Butina, at age 21, launched a furniture retail business in Altai Krai.[17] In 2011, she moved to Moscow and sold six of her seven furniture stores to start an advertising agency.[17][20] That same year, she participated in the Youth Primaries organized by the Young Guard of United Russia, the youth wing of the United Russia party, which she has described as "the current ruling political party in Moscow."[21]

Further in 2011, Butina founded Право на оружие (Russian: "Right to Bear Arms") described as a Russian gun-rights organization.[18] She began traveling back and forth to the U.S., initially with Aleksandr Torshin,[20] who was then a Senator in the Federation Council of Russia and a leading member of United Russia.[20] He had hired her as his "special assistant" that year.[6] In 2012, they lobbied the council to expand gun rights.[18] Butina resigned from her position as the head of Right to Bear Arms in late 2014.[22]

According to Russians interviewed by RFE/RL, the organization was notable for avoiding opposition to Putin during the 2011–2013 Russian protests, for its "quixotic" support for a cause with little public support and strong government opposition — Putin himself had told Russians "I am deeply convinced that the free flow of firearms will bring a great harm and represents a great danger for us" — for introducing legislation in the Russian parliament that "never went anywhere", and for receding from public view after Butina stepped down as its head.[23] According to US prosecutors who prosecuted Butina on charges of conspiracy and acting as a foreign agent, her love of guns was a ruse to advance Russia's agenda within the Republican Party.[6] Anders Aslund described the "Right to Bear Arms" as a "front organization with the purpose of infiltrating American groups and forging cooperation with the NRA"[24]

In 2013 she met Republican political operative Paul Erickson in Russia. The two became close, started dating, and eventually moved in together. In 2015, she emailed him a description of a proposed project to influence the Republican party to be friendlier to Russia, through the National Rifle Association (NRA).[13] In January 2015, Torshin became deputy governor of the Central Bank of Russia, and Butina worked as his special assistant until May 2017.[8][25] In 2017, Butina told The Washington Post that she never worked for the Russian government.[26]

In August 2016, she moved to the United States on a student visa, and enrolled as a graduate student in International Relations at American University in Washington, D.C.[27] While a student at American University, Butina got drunk on at least two separate occasions and bragged to her fellow students about her contacts in the Russian government; on both occasions, her classmates reported her to law enforcement, sources told CNN.[28]

In February 2016, Butina and Erickson began a South Dakota business, Bridges LLC.[25][29] Erickson later said the company was established in case Butina needed any monetary assistance for her graduate studies, which Butina commenced in mid-2016 American University in Washington.[30] In 2018, she completed a master's degree in international relations.[31]

Involvement in U.S. politicsEdit

National Rifle AssociationEdit

As part of her work as a foreign agent, Butina worked to infiltrate the National Rifle Association on behalf of Russia.[7][32][33]

Torshin and Butina established a cooperative relationship between the NRA and Right to Bear Arms. Torshin has attended NRA annual meetings in the United States since at least 2011. Following the 2011 meeting, then NRA President David Keene expressed his support for Torshin's "endeavors" and extended an invitation to the 2012 meeting.[34] Torshin also attended NRA annual meetings in 2012 and 2013.[35] In November 2013, Keene was a guest at the conference of the Right to Bear Arms in Moscow.[21]

Butina and Torshin attended the 2014 NRA annual meeting as special guests of former NRA president Keene.[25][36] Butina attended the Women's Leadership Luncheon at the 2014 meeting as a guest of former NRA president Sandy Froman.[26][36] Butina presented to then NRA president Jim Porter a plaque from Right to Bear Arms. Afterwards, she tweeted "Mission accomplished." As Keene's guest, Butina rang the NRA's Liberty Bell, saying, "To the right to bear arms for citizens of the whole world."[21] Butina and Torshin also attended the 2015 NRA annual convention.[37]

In 2015, a number of NRA officials attended Right to Bear Arms's annual gun conference in Russia. Among them were Keene, gun manufacturer and NRA first vice president Pete Brownell,[38] conservative American political operative Paul Erickson, and Milwaukee County sheriff David Clarke. One of their hosts was Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who in 2014 was sanctioned by the White House following Russia's annexation of Crimea. Clarke's trip cost $40,000, with all expenses paid by the NRA, Pete Brownell (an NRA board member and CEO of a gun-parts supply company) and Right to Bear Arms.[26][39][40] According to a disclosure Clarke filed, Right to Bear Arms paid $6,000 to cover his meals, lodging, transportation and other expenses.[20] During the meeting, Clarke met the Russian foreign minister and attended a conference at which Torshin spoke.[26][40] In November 2016, Torshin tweeted that he and Butina were lifetime NRA members.[35][41]

Republican PartyEdit

Butina has attempted to develop ties to conservative American politics. In a supporting affidavit to the government's support for pre-trial detention following her indictment in United States of America v. Maria Butina, the FBI stated that she had successfully sought ties to the Republican Party, where it is referred to as "POLITICAL PARTY 1".[5] According to The Daily Beast, she has presented herself as a "Russian central bank staffer, a leading gun rights advocate, a 'representative of the Russian Federation,' a Washington, D.C. graduate student, a journalist, and a connection between Team Trump and Russia" in order to gain access to "high-level contacts" in Washington.[25] At the 2014 NRA annual meeting, Butina took pictures with Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and former U.S. Senator and 2016 presidential candidate Rick Santorum. At the 2015 NRA annual meeting, she met Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, and in July 2015, she was present at the launch of Walker's 2016 presidential campaign.[21][35]

Obama administration officialsEdit

In 2015, Torshin, then the Russian Central Bank deputy governor, and Butina met the Treasury undersecretary for international affairs, Nathan Sheets, to discuss U.S.-Russian economic relations.[42] Separately, they also met with a Federal Reserve vice chairman, Stanley Fischer and with a State Department official.[42][43][44]

Donald Trump campaignEdit

In a June 2015 article published in The National Interest, a conservative American international affairs magazine, just before Trump announced his candidacy for president, she urged better relations between the United States and Russia,[35] saying, "It may take the election of a Republican to the White House in 2016 to improve relations between the Russian Federation and the United States." Her biography on the article did not mention that she worked for the Russian government.[21] The next month, Butina attended FreedomFest, where Trump gave a speech, and asked him from the audience about ending U.S. sanctions against Russia, to which he replied, "I don't think you'd need the sanctions."[21][45] Butina hosted a birthday party attended by Erickson and Trump campaign aides shortly after the 2016 election.[35]

United States of America v. Mariia Butina, aka Maria ButinaEdit

ComplaintEdit

United States of America v. Mariia Butina, aka Maria Butina
 
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia
Citations18 U.S.C. § 951.
Judge sittingDeborah A. Robinson
Prosecutor(s)Erik M. Kenerson[46]
Defendant(s)Mariia Butina

On July 15, 2018, Butina was arrested in Washington, and charged with acting in the United States as an agent of a foreign government; specifically the Russian Federation, without prior notification to the Attorney General, a conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States, to wit, 18 U.S.C. §951 (foreign relations, agents of foreign governments), in violation of 18 U.S.C. §371 (conspiracy).[47]

After her arrest, it was mistakenly reported she was charged with a violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (22 U.S.C. §11 foreign agents and propaganda). United States law dictates that all lobbyists representing foreign governments must register as such with the Department of Justice.[12] Her attorney said that "the allegations of the indictment are essentially that her only illegal act was not registering."[48]

On July 18, Butina pleaded not guilty,[49] and a District Court judge ordered her jailed pending trial.[49] She is also said to be cooperating in a federal fraud investigation in South Dakota.[50] Maria Butina was held in solitary confinement in Alexandria Detention Center.[51]

AffidavitEdit

According to the affidavit in support of the complaint, from as early as 2015 and continuing through at least February 2017, Butina worked at the direction of a high-level official in the Russian government, who, according to The New York Times, was believed to be Torshin. 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 the Republican Party and in conservative politics—such as the National Rifle Association, the National Prayer Breakfast and some religious organizations—for the purpose of advancing the interests of the Russian Federation.[52]

The filings also describe certain actions taken by Butina to further this effort during multiple visits from Russia and, later, when she entered and resided in the United States on a student visa. The filings allege that she undertook her activities "without officially disclosing the fact that she was acting as an agent of Russian government, as required by law."[53]

Butina, Torshin, and Erickson have been subjects of an investigation by the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence into Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections. Erickson is referred to in Butina's indictment as "Person 1." In addition, George D. O'Neill Jr., a conservative writer and Rockefeller heir, is "Person 2."[30][35][54] Torshin has also been the subject of a probe by the FBI into whether the Russian government attempted to illegally funnel money to the NRA in order to help Trump win the presidency.[30][37]

The FBI began to monitor Butina in August 2016, after she had moved to the United States on an F-1 student visa. Rather than confront her immediately, the FBI chose to track her movements and gather information on whom she was meeting, and what her end goals were to be.[55]

Plea dealEdit

Butina's attorneys and federal prosecutors declared in a November 16, 2018, court filing that they had entered into plea negotiations.[56] On December 13, she pleaded guilty to conspiracy to act as an illegal foreign agent, while the original charge of failing to register as a foreign agent was dropped.[57][58] She faced a maximum sentence of five years in prison and, according to a CNN report, will "likely be deported after serving any time."[14]

On April 26, 2019, Butina was sentenced to 18 months in prison by Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, in accordance with the recommendations of prosecutors.[59]

Russian reactionEdit

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he had no prior knowledge of Butina.[60] Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov made a statement saying that Butina's arrest was designed to undermine the "positive results" of the Helsinki summit between U.S. President Trump and Russian President Putin.[61] She was arrested a day before Trump met his Russian counterpart.[31] Butina's father has called the accusations against her "a witch-hunt".[62]

Leonid Slutsky, head of the lower house of the Russian parliament's foreign affairs committee, called Butina's case a "modern political inquisition."[63] Russia's Foreign Ministry accused the United States of forcing false confession from Butina.[64] According to the foreign ministry spokesperson, Maria Zakharova, "having created unbearable conditions for her and threatening her with a long jail sentence, she was literally forced to sign up to absolutely ridiculous charges."[65]

Timeline of events related to Maria Butina and TorshinEdit

2011Edit

2012Edit

2013Edit

  • May 3–5: Butina and Torshin attend the NRA convention in Houston, Texas.[73][74]
  • Early October: Butina makes a presentation on "Right to Bear Arms" to the Association for the Promotion of Weapons Culture in Israel. Her presentation includes a slide claiming her organization has cooperation agreements with similar organizations in Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Estonia, and she informs the group that it also has a cooperation agreement with the NRA. Another slide states it has a cooperation agreement with the International Defensive Pistol Association, which the Texas-based organization denies when asked in 2018.[75]
  • Early November: Keene, Alan Gottlieb, Gottlieb's wife, and Paul Erickson attend the "Right to Bear Arms" conference in Moscow where they meet with Butina and Torshin.[68][76][77] Gottlieb and Keene are invited speakers at the event.[71][78][79] Gottlieb and his wife dine with Torshin and Butina, and receive "gifts that [display] research into their interests." In 2017, Gottlieb tells the Washington Post, "They wanted to keep communications open and form friendships."[68]
  • December 10: John Bolton promotes gun rights in Russia in a video made for Butina's "Right to Bear Arms" organization.[73][80]

2014Edit

  • Butina tells an American Facebook friend who complained about California's gun restrictions that he should "hold demonstrations" for gun rights.[81]
  • April 24: Butina presents NRA president Jim Porter with an honorary membership in "Right to Bear Arms".[82][83]
  • April 25–27: Butina and Torshin attend the NRA annual conference in Indianapolis. Butina attends several meetings as a guest of Keene.[76][84]
  • Late 2014: Butina resigns from her position as the head of "Right to Bear Arms".[85]
  • September 3: Paul Erickson attends a "Right to Bear Arms" forum in Moscow where he is a featured speaker.[76][86][87]

2015Edit

  • February: Dimitri Simes meets with Putin and other Russian officials in Moscow. Simes is the publisher of The National Interest and CEO of the think tank Center for the National Interest (CNI). The Center arranges meetings between Torshin, Butina, and U.S. government officials in April. The following year he would arranges Trump's April 27, 2016, speech at the Mayflower Hotel.[88]
  • February 26–28: Butina attends CPAC.[82][89]
    • Butina and Torshin meet with Treasury undersecretary for international affairs Nathan Sheets to discuss U.S. Russian economic relations during the Obama administration. The meeting was arranged by the CNI.[88]
    • Torshin and Butina participate in discussions about the "Russian financial situation and its impact on Russian politics" at a private event moderated by Hank Greenberg and organized by the CNI.[88]
  • April 7: Torshin and Butina meet with Federal Reserve vice chairman Stanley Fischer to discuss U.S. Russian economic relations during the Obama administration. The meeting was arranged by the CNI.[88]
  • April 10: Butina, Torshin, and David Keene attend a fundraiser in Tennessee for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.[76][90]
  • April 11–12: Torshin and Butina attend the NRA convention in Nashville, Tennessee.[76] Torshin briefly converses with Trump. Torshin and the Trump family dispute how much was said.[91]
  • June 12: Maria Butina argues in an article she wrote for The National Interest that only a Republican president can improve relations between the U.S. and Russia.[92][93]
  • July 11: Butina attends FreedomFest in Las Vegas, where Trump is speaking and taking questions. She asks Trump his stance on continuing sanctions; he replies he knows Putin and doesn't think sanctions are needed.[94]
  • July 13: Butina is present at Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's presidential candidacy announcement.[66]
  • August 4–6: Rohrabacher and Behrends travel to Russia.[95] While there, Rohrabacher meets Butina and Torshin for breakfast.[96] In July 2018, Rohrabacher tells Politico he dined with Butina and another congressman accompanying him on the trip.[97]
  • November 25: In an email to incoming NRA President Pete Brownell, Erickson writes, "most of the FSB agents 'assigned' to her [Butina] want to marry her", saying that is why she was able to arrange a tour of a Russian arms factory for the NRA delegation.[98]
  • December 8–13: Outspoken Trump supporter Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke, former NRA President David Keene, future NRA President Pete Brownell, NRA Golden Ring of Freedom Chair Joe Gregory, major NRA donors Hilary[99] and Arnold Goldschlager, Outdoor Channel CEO Jim Liberatore,[100] and NRA member Paul Erickson travel to Moscow for the "Right to Bear Arms" convention. They meet Russian government officials, including Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Dmitry Rogozin[101] and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Rogozin is under U.S. sanctions. Butina accompanies the delegation on a tour of the gun manufacturer ORSIS, where they meet with the company's executives, including Svetlana Nikolaev, president of ORSIS's parent company and wife of billionaire Konstantin Nikolaev. They also meet with Torshin and Sergei Rudov, the head of the Saint Basil the Great Charitable Foundation. They attend a party at a Moscow hunting club hosted by Torshin and Pavel Gusev, the Chairman of the Public Council of the Russian Ministry of Defense. Clarke later files an ethics report showing that Butina's organization, "Right to Bear Arms", covered $6,000 of his expenses.[66][90][102][103][104] After the Lavrov meeting, Butina emails Torshin, writing, "We should let them express their gratitude now, and put pressure on them quietly later."[105] In May 2018, NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch denies there was an NRA trip to Moscow, then clarifies in July 2018 that it wasn't an official trip.[86][106][107]

2016Edit

  • April 27:
    • Erickson contacts Trump campaign advisor Rick Dearborn. In an email headed "Kremlin Connection", Erickson seeks the advice of Dearborn and Sessions about how to arrange a meeting between Trump and Putin. Erickson suggests making contact at the NRA's annual convention in Kentucky. The communication refers to Torshin, who is under instructions to contact the Trump campaign.[108][109]
    • At Butina's urging, Christian activist Rick Clay emails Dearborn with the subject "Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite"[110] offering a meeting between Trump and Torshin.[111] Dearborn, then Sessions's Chief of Staff, sends an email mentioning a person from West Virginia seeking to connect Trump campaign members with Putin. Dearborn appears "skeptical" of the meeting request.[112] Jared Kushner rejects the request. Torshin and Trump Jr. later meet and speak at the NRA convention.[111]
  • May 10: Dearborn receives an email about arranging a back-channel meeting between Trump and Putin with the subject line "Kremlin Connection." It is sent from a conservative operative who says Russia wants to use the NRA's convention to make "first contact."[113]
  • May 19–22: The NRA annual conference is held in Louisville, Kentucky. Trump and Trump Jr. attend.[114][115][116][117] Trump Jr. meets briefly with Torshin and Butina on May 20.[113]
  • August: Butina arrives in the U.S. on a student visa to attend American University in Washington, D.C.[118][119]
  • August 9: Bloomberg reports that the Spanish Civil Guard believes Torshin assisted the Taganskaya crime syndicate with money laundering through banks in Spain.[120]
  • September 29: Butina meets J. D. Gordon at a party at the Swiss ambassador's residence. Gordon was the Director of National Security for the Trump campaign from February to August. That night, Erickson emails Butina and Gordon offering to "add an electronic bridge" to their meeting at the party. In his email to Butina, Erickson writes that Gordon is "playing a crucial role in the Trump transition effort and would be an excellent addition to any of the U.S./Russia friendship dinners to occasionally hold." He writes that all the "right" people listen to Gordon on international security. Erickson's email to Gordon describes Butina as a "special friend" of the NRA and the special assistant to the deputy governor of the Bank of Russia.[121]
  • October 18: Butina and Gordon attend a Styx concert together.[121][122]
  • November 12 : Butina holds a birthday party at Cafe Deluxe in Washington, D.C., attended by Erickson and Trump campaign aides.[100][119] She claims to be part of Russian communications with the Trump campaign, something she has bragged about for months.[119]

2017Edit

  • January 20: Maria Butina attends the inaugural Freedom Ball with Paul Erickson. It is one of the three balls Trump attends.[66][117][123]
  • January 27: Alexander Torshin, Maria Butina, Paul Erickson, and former Kremlin staffer Andrey Kolyadin dine with Representatives Dana Rohrabacher and Thomas Massie at a private dinner hosted by Rockefeller heir George O’Neill Jr.[66][91]
  • February 2: Alexander Torshin and Maria Butina attend the National Prayer Breakfast. Torshin is scheduled to meet privately with Trump beforehand, but the meeting is canceled after a national security aide points out that Torshin is under investigation for organized crime and money laundering.[66] A spokesman for Torshin later says Torshin was officially on vacation at the time, adding, "President Trump has never proposed a meeting to Mr. Torshin."[124]
  • August 11: The Senate Intelligence Committee asks Sigal Mandelker, the Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, to provide any "suspicious" or "derogatory" transaction records reported by banks involving Maria Butina, Alexander Torshin, Paul Erickson, Investing With Dignity, or Bridges LLC. Erickson owns Investing With Dignity and jointly owns Bridges LLC with Butina. The committee sends a follow-up request on December 7 complaining that it hasn't received a response.[125]
  • December: Butina declines a request to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee because of lack of support from Republican members.[125]

2018Edit

  • January: Federal agents photograph Maria Butina dining with Oleg Zhiganov, the director of the Russian Cultural Center. Zhiganov is expelled from the U.S. in March for being a suspected Russian spy. In a July hearing, prosecutors offer Butina's association with Zhiganov as one reason she should be considered a flight risk and denied bail.[126]
  • March 12: Butina responds to a Federal Election Commission query "about whether or not certain donations had been made to political campaigns."[127]
  • April: Butina testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee in a closed session for eight hours.[78] She tells the committee that Russian billionaire Konstantin Nikolaev funded "Right to Bear Arms" from 2012 to 2014.[128] In July, A spokesperson for Nikolaev confirms the funding support after initial denials.[128][129]
  • April 25: FBI agents in tactical gear search Butina's apartment. One of the warrants executed is related to a fraud investigation of Paul Erickson.[78][130][131][132]
  • May: Butina graduates from American University with a master's degree in international relations.[133][134]
  • May 7: The NRA announces board member Oliver North will replace Peter Brownell as president of the organization after Brownell announces he will not seek a second term. The selection of North is unusual because the NRA board normally selects someone who has served two terms each as the first and the second vice president, and North has held neither position. In August, David Corn of Mother Jones points out that the move comes two weeks after the FBI raided Butina's apartment and that Brownell is an associate of Butina.[131]
  • June: Butina offers to assist prosecutors in an investigation of Paul Erickson.[78]
  • July 15: Butina is arrested in Washington, D.C., on charges of being an unregistered foreign agent of the Russian Federation working to infiltrate politically influential organizations in the U.S. and influence U.S. officials.[117][135]
  • July 16: The Justice Department announces Butina's arrest and the criminal charges that led to it.[135] NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch clarifies her May 8 denial[136] of the December 2015 NRA trip to Moscow, telling Mark Follman of Mother Jones that she meant it wasn't an official trip.[86][137]
  • July 17: Prosecutors file an indictment of Butina in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.[138]
    • Rohrabacher tells Politico he is unsure whether he is the U.S. congressman mentioned in the Butina indictment, though he admits to being in Russia in August 2015 and dining with Butina and another congressman. He calls the charges against Butina "bogus" and a function of the "deep state."[97]
  • July 18: Butina pleads not guilty at a preliminary hearing. The judge orders Butina be held without bail pending trial.[139]
  • July 19: The Russian Foreign Ministry calls on people to show their support for Butina by changing their social media avatars to a photo of her, in ‘Free Maria Butina’ campaign.[140]
  • July 23: Senators Ron Wyden, Robert Menendez, and Sheldon Whitehouse send Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin a letter demanding the "production of any documents relevant to financial links between the NRA, its associated entities and Ms. Butina and any entities or individuals related to her." The letter is a follow-up to a similar letter Wyden sent Mnuchin in February.[141]
  • July 23: After initial denials,[128] a spokesperson for Russian billionaire Konstantin Nikolaev confirms that Nikolaev funded "Right to Bear Arms" from 2012 to 2014.[129]
  • August 9: The Daily Beast reports that Igor Pisarky, the founder and chairman of the Russian public relations firm R.I.M. Porter Novelli, was Butina's point of contact for the funding she received from billionaire Konstantin Nikolaev.[142]
  • September: The U.S. Attorney's office in Washington, D.C., sends Paul Erickson a letter informing him that it is considering bringing charges against him for secretly acting as a foreign agent and a possible additional charge for conspiracy.[143] The Daily Beast reports that Erickson is under investigation by the FBI and the U.S. attorney in South Dakota for fraudulently seeking $100,000 investments at conservative political events to fund North Dakota companies allegedly involved in the Bakken oil fields.[144]
  • September 19: NPR reports that beginning in 2014, Maria Butina urged Americans to hold gun rights demonstrations.[145]
  • December 11: CNN reports that Butina agreed to plead guilty to spying and is now cooperating with the prosecutor.[146]
  • December 12: Reuters reports that Putin is unclear about why Butina was arrested. He said, "She risks 15 years in jail. For what? I asked all the heads of our intelligence services what is going on. Nobody knows anything about her."[147]
  • December 13: Butina pleads guilty in a D.C. federal court to trying to infiltrate the U.S. conservative movement as an agent for the Kremlin. She admits to working with Erickson to forge bonds with NRA officials and conservative leaders while under the direction of Torshin. In her plea agreement, prosecutors agreed to drop a charge of failing to register as a foreign agent in exchange for cooperation. In the statement of the offense, Erickson is identified as "U.S. Person 1", Torshin as the "Russian Official", the Republican Party as "Political Party #1", and the NRA as the "Gun Rights Organization".[105]
  • December 19: In a Moscow news briefing, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova says that Butina was coerced into making a false confession: "Butina confirmed that she had done a deal with U.S. investigators and confessed to being a foreign agent. Having created unbearable conditions for her and threatening her with a long jail sentence, she was literally forced to sign up to absolutely ridiculous charges."[148]

2019Edit

  • September 27: U.S. Senate report is released which considers the NRA acted as a 'foreign asset' to Russia ahead of 2016 election.[149][150]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

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  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on July 17, 2018. Retrieved July 17, 2018.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ Matt Apuzzo, Katie Benner and Sharon LaFraniere (July 16, 2018). "Mariia Butina, Who Sought 'Back Channel' Meeting for Trump and Putin, Is Charged as Russian Agent". The New York Times.
  4. ^ Vera Bergengruen (July 16, 2018). "Charges Say Accused Russian Agent Used The NRA And The National Prayer Breakfast In Effort To Influence US Policy". BuzzFeed News.
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  7. ^ a b staff, Guardian; Press, Associated (April 26, 2019). "Maria Butina sentenced to 18 months for trying to infiltrate US right and NRA". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved August 6, 2019 – via www.theguardian.com.
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  9. ^ John Fritze (July 23, 2018). "Report: Alleged spy Maria Butina paid by Russian billionaire Konstantin Nikolaev". USAToday.com. Retrieved July 26, 2018.
  10. ^ "The criminal complaint against Maria Butina by the Dept. of Justice". justice.gov.
  11. ^ Justice, United States Department of. Mariia Butina Plea Agreement.
  12. ^ a b c "Maria Butina: NRA member, lobbyist, and Kremlin spy?". Deutsche Welle. July 17, 2018.
  13. ^ a b Prokop, Andrew (July 19, 2018). "Maria Butina, explained: the accused Russian spy who tried to sway US politics through the NRA". Vox. Retrieved July 27, 2018.
  14. ^ a b Polantz, Katelyn (December 13, 2018). "Alleged Russian spy Maria Butina pleads guilty to engaging in conspiracy against US". CNN.COM.
  15. ^ "Maria Butina, Russian who conspired to infiltrate NRA, to be sentenced April 26".
  16. ^ cnn.com: Alleged Russian agent Maria Butina sentenced to 18 months in prison on conspiracy charge
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