Woman arrested, charged with acting as Russian agent in US

Maria Butina

A 29-year-old Russian woman has been arrested for conspiring to influence U.S. politics by cultivating ties with political groups including the National Rifle Association.

29-year-old Maria Butina has been arrested in the USA, accused of acting as an agent for Russian Federation.

Maria Butina, 29, was arrested on Sunday in Washington and made her first appearance in US District Court before Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson. While the statement does not identify the man, he is presumed to be Aleksandr Torshin, a former Russian lawmaker and central bank official who has not held public office since 2015. Her lawyer, Robert Neil Driscoll, told the judge that Butina's residence was searched by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in April, that she had testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee in a closed session several months ago, and that "we have been offering to cooperate with the government the entire time".

According to the Justice Department, Butina worked "at the direction of a high-level official in the Russian government" from "as early as 2015. through at least February 2017". The official, whose name was not released, was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in April.

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 US persons and infiltrating organizations having influence in American politics, for the goal of advancing the interests of the Russian Federation.

According to the complaint against her, she worked with two unnamed US citizens and the Russian official to try and influence American politics and infiltrate a pro-gun rights organization. The FBI is reportedly investigating Torshin for illegally funneling money to the NRA so as to aid Trump's 2016 campaign.

The affidavit also contains apparent communications, by direct message on Twitter, between Butina and the unnamed Russian official.

Maria Butina
Maria Butina

Butina was named in a report by Democrats on the Senate judiciary committee, citing documents suggesting Russian Federation used the National Rifle Association to secretly fund President Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.

Walker's re-election campaign spokesman had no immediate comment Monday.

She has ties to the National Rifle Association, and hosted NRA executives in Washington.

Butina's attorney, Robert Neil Driscoll, said in a statement to the Post that Butina is "not an agent of the Russian Federation".

Trump, who is not named in any of the documents charging Butina, also repeated on Monday that he considers the Mueller probe a "witch hunt".

Moments after the news of Butina's arrest broke, Mr Trump tweeted from aboard the Air Force One en route back to America following his Helsinki meeting with Vladimir Putin.

Butina and Torshin did, however, have brief interaction with Donald Trump Jr., who has said the interaction was brief and not memorable, the Post reported.

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