Russia espionage, Maria Butina, NRA, Donald Trump | Homeland Security Newswire

The Russia connectionU.S. charges woman with links to Kremlin, U.S. politicians as covert Russian agent

Published 17 July 2018

Maria Butina, a 29-year old Russian national in the United States on a student visa, cultivated ties with American conservative politicians and groups – especially the NRA – and was close to people around Donald Trump. She bragged at parties in Washington that she could use her political connections to help get people jobs in the Trump administration after the election. She was arrested on Monday and charged with being a covert Russian agent. The criminal complaint says that she reported to Aleksandr Torshin, a Russian oligarch who doubles as a cut-out for Russian intelligence. Torshin became a lifetime member of the NRA in 2012, and is now being investigated for allegedly steering millions of dollars from the Kremlin to the NRA in 2016, which the NRA then used to fund pro-Trump advertising and campaign events.

U.S. prosecutors have arrested a Russian woman who cultivated ties with American conservative politicians and groups and charged her with acting as a covert agent for the Russian government.

In U.S. court filings in Washington late on 16 July, prosecutors said Maria Butina, 29, entertained and cultivated relationships with U.S. politicians and worked to infiltrate U.S. political organizations, particularly the National Rifle Association (NRA), the powerful gun lobbying organization, while reporting back to a high-ranking official in Moscow.

The U.S. complaint says Butina in an e-mail in 2015 described the gun association as the “largest sponsor” of congressional elections in the United States, and said Russia should build a relationship with it and the Conservative Political Action Conference, a top backer of Republican political campaigns, to improve U.S.-Russia relations.

The U.S. case against Butina, a founder of the pro-gun rights Russian advocacy organization Right to Bear Arms, was announced just hours after the conclusion of a summit in Helsinki between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The complaint portrays Butina as active in promoting Russian interests in U.S. politics, including an easing of sanctions imposed on Moscow in 2014, in the year leading up to Trump’s election as president in 2016.

In a video posted on YouTube from the FreedomFest, a conservative political event in Las Vegas, in July 2015, Butina is seen asking then-candidate Trump if he would continue to support sanctions against Russia if he were elected president.

Reuters, citing an anonymous source, reported that Butina was a Trump supporter who bragged at parties in Washington that she could use her political connections to help get people jobs in the Trump administration after the election.

According to the complaint, Butina reported back to a top government official in Moscow, who is not named in the court papers. But the official was described as “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.”

That description fits Aleksandr Torshin, whom Butina has previously been affiliated with. She is pictured with Torshin in numerous photographs on her Facebook page.

Torshin, who became a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association in 2012, was among a group of Russian oligarchs and officials targeted with sanctions