Maria Butina Pleads Guilty to Participating in a Russian Conspiracy Against the United States

She has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. Russian gun rights activist Maria Butina pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy against the United States in federal court Thursday, pledging to cooperate with prosecutors investigating Russian efforts targeting the 2016 election. The 30-year-old has been jailed since July, when she was charged with acting as a Kremlin agent in connection with her efforts to cultivate connections with influential conservative figures and groups, most notably the National Rifle Association. Prosecutors contend that her efforts were guided by Alexander Torshin, a Russian banker and former politician said to be close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Appearing in court Thursday, Butina confirmed she had worked “under direction of” a Russian official, known to be Torshin.
Butina is the founder of the Right to Bear Arms, a Russian gun rights group. With Torshin, she used pro-gun credentials to build relationships with top NRA figures. Butina and Torshin attended multiple NRA conventions, and they arranged for top NRA officials, including its onetime president David Keene, to visit Russia. “Butina sought to establish unofficial lines of communication with Americans having power and influence over US politics,” a Justice Department prosecutor told the court.
In a court filing connected to her plea deal, prosecutors stated that at least two other people, in addition to Torshin, aided in Butina’s conspiracy. The documents refer to “US Person 1,” whose description matches that of Paul Erickson, an NRA member and Republican political operative who was romantically involved with Butina. The filing noted that “US Person 1” helped Butina in a number of ways, including by giving her background information on US figures who came to visit her gun rights group in Moscow, and assessing “their degree of political influence.” And it said that “US Person 1” reviewed a Google-translated version of a proposal Butina drafted outlining her “diplomacy project,” in which she detailed her plan to influence US policy by building ties to influential Republicans. In her memo, Butina touted her previous US travel, attendance at NRA conferences, and the NRA’s influence over the Republican party as evidence that “she had laid the groundwork for an unofficial channel of communication with the next US administration,” according to prosecutors. It is expected that Butina will provide evidence against Erickson as part of her cooperation with the US government.

via mother jones: Maria Butina Pleads Guilty to Participating in a Russian Conspiracy Against the United States

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By Pavel Starikov from Russia – Maria Butina, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

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