Russian ‘agent’ held on charges of seeking to infiltrate United States gov’t

Russian national and gun-rights advocate Maria Butina traded sex for a position in a special-interest organisation, according to USA prosecutors who asked a judge to keep her in jail before trial because of her ties to Russian intelligence services.

"The concern that Butina poses a risk of flight is only heightened due to her connection to suspected Russian intelligence operatives". "Butina presents an extreme flight risk". A 2015 poster shows her holding an automatic rifle and a handgun, pointing out that Russian laws allow rifles but ban handguns for self-defense, and asking, "Where is the logic?".

"I believe I would get along very nicely with Putin".

Trump told the woman, "I don't think you'd need the sanctions" on Russian Federation if he were president.

Maria Butina, 29, was taken into custody on Sunday and charged with working in the United States as an unregistered foreign agent.

Prosecutors revealed the new allegations against Butina in documents filed Wednesday, as Butina pleaded not guilty and a judge ordered her held without bond in court. He also disclosed that she had testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee in a closed session earlier this year.

GOP operative Paul Erickson, identified in the indictment only as "U.S. Person 1", allegedly helped the duo connect with influential conservatives involved with the NRA, National Prayer Breakfast, and 2016 Republican presidential campaigns, according to the indictment.

Court papers unsealed Monday, July 16, 2018, photographed in Washington, shows part of the criminal complaint against Maria Butina.

Prosecutors allege that Butina carried out the scheme at the direction of an unnamed senior Russian government official. Torshin was placed under sanction by the USA in April this year.

That included offering sex to get a job in a U.S. lobbying group, according to documents filed in court by the Department of Justice.

Butina allegedly spent years forging connections with top conservative officials, including many associated with a "gun rights organization", "for the objective of advancing the interests of the Russian Federation", according to the indictment. Butina's case, however, is being handled by the U.S. Attorney's Office and the National Security Division of the Justice Department.

Kenerson accused Butina of having an "ongoing relationship" with a Republican strategist while offering another individual "sex in exchange for a position within a special interest organization".

Before the hearing on Wednesday, the government's attorneys cited "the nature of the charges, her history of deceptive conduct, the potential sentence she faces, the strong evidence of guilt, extensive foreign connections and her lack of any meaningful ties to the United States".

US prosecutors allege that Butina sought to cultivate close ties with the NRA as a conduit to the Republican Party during the 2016 presidential election.

The report bolsters the DOJ's claim that Butina worked with a high ranking Russian official to establish a "back channel" between the U.S. and Russia.

In documents seized by the FBI, Butina "complained about living with U.S. Person 1", they wrote.

In the 29-page filing, prosecutors said Butina has ties to Russian oligarchs, including one with a net worth of $1.2 billion, and that she was previously was in touch with oligarchs about funding her trip to the United States.

"I believe these messages are the Russian Official relaying the Russian Federation's instructions to its agent, Butina", FBI Special Agent Kevin Helson wrote in the charging affidavit published Monday.

  • Tracy Klein