Published: Thu, December 13, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

Alleged Russian spy admits to engaging in conspiracy against US

Alleged Russian spy admits to engaging in conspiracy against US

Prosecutors did not agree on any guidelines range, but agreed to request leniency if she provides "substantial assistance".

She said: 'She did nothing wrong, she is not a criminal, not a terrorist.

While it's highly unusual for an accused Russian spy to cooperate with USA prosecutors, early indications are that her cooperation is narrow in scope. However, the descriptions given by prosecutors match up with Erickson's background and past activities.

Butina admitted that she "sought to establish unofficial lines of communication with Americans having power and influence over United States politics".

NRA members also received her invitation to visit Moscow and meet with high-ranking Russian politicians.

Court documents show Butina lived with a US man in his 50s who has been identified as Paul Erickson, a Republican activist and NRA member.

Russian Federation had described the case against her as "fabricated" and on Tuesday, as it became clear Butina would enter a guilty plea, Russia's president Vladimir Putin said: "She risks 15 years in jail".

In DC federal court Thursday morning, Butina admitted to working with an American Republican operative and a Russian official to establish unofficial lines of communication between U.S. politicians and Moscow, according to the Washington Post.

The work ran through Election Day 2016 and into the following year, when Torshin instructed Butina about which Russian attendees to arrange to become part of a delegation to the National Prayer Breakfast on February 2, 2017.

House intelligence committee Democrats quoted that message in their response to the GOP majority's report that said the contacts between people in the Trump camp and Russians in 2016 were "ill-advised" but not evidence of conspiracy.

Robert Driscoll Maria Butina’s attorney leaves U.S. District Court in Washington Thursday Dec. 13 2018. Maria Butina a Russian accused of being a secret agent for the Russian government has pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in federal court

Before the plea, the Russian foreign ministry continued to support Butina, planning to send embassy personnel to her hearing and posting a statement on Twitter by spokeswoman Maria Zakharov, saying, "We demand that Washington observe legal rights of Maria Butina & release her as soon as possible".

"She used this option to survive", Zakharova told CNN.

Butina, 30, was arrested in July.

Erickson's defense attorney, William Hurd, attended the plea hearing.

It's still unknown if there will be a plea agreement or if that agreement would include a cooperation agreement.

But when asked by US District Judge Tanya Chutkan if her mind was clear as she prepared to enter her guilty plea, she replied: "Absolutely".

Chutkan said that prosecutors had tapes of a call Butina made from jail with a journalist and that prosecutors flagged this to the judge as a potential conflict of interest.

Butina's lawyer, Robert Driscoll, had previously decried the charges against her as "overblown" and said prosecutors criminalized her mundane networking opportunities. Under his Torshin direction, the agreement said, she "sought to establish unofficial lines of communication with Americans having power and influence over US politics".

During the calls, the prosecutors also learned that Butina told other inmates to talk to her lawyer and to speak to the media on her behalf.

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