Published: Tue, December 11, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

Russian spy who infiltrated USA rifle association expected to plea-bargain

Russian spy who infiltrated USA rifle association expected to plea-bargain

Alleged Russian spy Maria Butina has reached a plea deal over charges that she attempted to manipulate conservative political groups for the sake of influencing US politics.

The government has alleged that U.S. Person 1 "worked with Butina to arrange introductions to U.S. persons having influence in American politics", including high-ranking members of the National Rifle Association and organizers of the National Prayer Breakfast, that would ultimately give her a surprising level of access to conservative politicians, including - in one memorable interaction captured on video - to then-candidate Donald Trump.

Her attorneys and prosecutors on Monday filed a two-page request for a "change of plea" hearing as soon as Tuesday.

This story is breaking and will be updated.

Butina's lawyers previously identified the Russian official with whom she was accused of working as Alexander Torshin, a deputy governor of Russia's central bank who was hit with U.S. Treasury Department sanctions in April.

The Government's complaint against Butina did not explicitly mention Mr Trump's campaign.

Maria Butina, left, has reached a plea agreement with prosecutors after she was charged with being an unregistered foreign agent.

US District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan scheduled a further hearing for December 12.

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Democrat Senator Ted Lieu gleefully gloated at the NRA after the news of Butina's eminent deal was reported. Considering that Butina is admitting that Erickson was in on this, it appears cooperating against her former flame could be one of the requirements she needs to fulfill.

Her romantic partner, Paul Erickson, is described in court papers as participating in the conspiracy and advising Butina on pressure points and Republican political figures.

In 2016, she moved to Washington to study for a master's degree from American University.

Neither Mr Erickson nor Mr Torshin have been accused by prosecutors of wrongdoing.

Reuters previously reported, however, 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.

Whether or not she could help shed any light on contacts between Mr Trump's campaign and Russian Federation is not known. She is now being held in solitary confinement in a northern Virginia jail. She regularly posted photos on social media that showed her posing with guns, touting Russian policies and schmoozing with notable politicians.

"Will the Maria Butina plea expose what you are hiding in your clenched fist?" he added.

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