The Department of Justice on Monday announced charges against a Russian national for conspiracy to act as an agent of the Russian government while influencing American political organizations and politicians.
The DOJ said it arrested Maria Butina on July 15 for working at the behest of a high-level Russian government official in order to create inroads for him with unnamed Americans and American political organizations. She is accused of lobbying and advocating on behalf of the Russian government without registering as a foreign agent.
"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 was previously a member of the legislature of the Russian Federation and later became a top official at the Russian Central Bank," the DOJ said in a press release. "This Russian official was sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control in April 2018."
The complaint lists myriad connections and meetings that Butina made with unnamed Americans and American political organizations as well as detailed transcripts of her communications with the high-level Russian government official. They detail Butina's trips to the National Prayer Breakfast and an unnamed gun-rights conference as well as her retelling of her activities to the government official.
Butina publicly attended the 2017 National Prayer Breakfast, organized by the Fellowship Foundation, as a special assistant to Alexander Torshin, deputy governor of the Bank of Russia. She also attended the 2014 NRA Annual Meeting in her role as the public face of a Russian gun-rights group named "The Right to Bear Arms." The DOJ is alleging that her political activities in the United States were undertaken with the objective of furthering the interests of the Russian government and at the direction of the Russian government.
"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 American politics, for the purpose of advancing the interests of the Russian Federation," the DOJ said in their release. "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."
The Washington Free Beacon attempted to contact the Fellowship Foundation for comment on this story but the contact form on the group's website returned a message saying it had "reached the maximum number of entries allowed for this period." The National Rifle Association did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Butina faces up to five years in prison if she is convicted of the charges. She has a hearing set for July 18.