Russian spy who infiltrated United States rifle association expected to plea-bargain

Russian spy who infiltrated United States rifle association expected to plea-bargain

A representative for the U.S. Attorney's Office declined to comment on the case.

Prosecutors allege Butina, 30, gathered intelligence on American officials and political organizations. Instead, she was attempting to network with Americans to improve relations between the USA and Russian Federation. She also struck up a romantic relationship with Paul Erickson, a longtime GOP operative who is also reportedly on prosecutors' radar.

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It is unclear when she caught the attention of U.S. authorities, but she was arrested in July when she was deemed a flight risk. Butina will appear in court for a change-of-plea hearing later this week.

Now US media are reporting that she has cut a deal with prosecutors and could plead guilty to some charges in court tomorrow. She certainly had surprising access to conservative politicians, including - in one memorable interaction captured on video - to then-candidate Donald Trump.

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Butina has agreed to plead to a single charge of conspiracy to act as a Russian agent on America's soil without registering as required with the Justice Department. Butina and Erickson have been romantically involved since they met while Erickson was visiting Moscow in 2013, her lawyer has said. After it ended, she sent Torshin a message: "We should let them express their gratitude now, we will put pressure on them quietly later". During the 2016 campaign, Butina had contact with a senior official in the Trump campaign, Rick Dearborn, trying to broker a meeting between Trump and Putin. A month later, at a public town hall event in Las Vegas, she was able to ask Trump a direct question, inquiring about how he viewed sanctions imposed on Russian Federation after its 2014 invasion of Crimea. "I don't think you'd need the sanctions". However, experts have said her activities are a reminder of the sophistication of the Russian targeting of the American political system, which successfully pinpointed the NRA and other conservative interest groups as an avenue to mold opinion of Republican elected officials. "I asked all the heads of our intelligence services what is happening, 'who is she?' No one knows a thing about her".

Butina's father said she's received nothing but "moral support provided in the form of diplomatic notes, protests, etc." from Russia's Foreign Ministry.

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