RUSSIAN WOMAN ARRESTED, ALLEGEDLY ACTED AS COVERT AGENT
The arrest of a 29-year-old Russian woman and gun rights activist was announced yesterday, with federal prosecutors charging that she acted as a covert Russian agent.
Maria Butina allegedly gathered intelligence on American officials and political organizations, and worked to establish back-channel lines of communications for the Russian government. Court documents show that Butina's activities were involved in U.S. politics during the 2016 election, including efforts to use contacts with the National Rifle Association to develop relationships with American politicians and gather intelligence for Russia.
Documents also show that an unnamed American who worked with Butina claimed to have been involved in setting up a private line of communication before the election between the Russian government and key officials in a U.S. political party through the NRA, although they don't say whether the back channel was ever actually established. AP reports that details appear to indicate it was the Republican Party.
Butina was charged with conspiracy to act as an unregistered agent of the Russian government. Her attorney, Robert Driscoll, called the allegations "overblown" and said prosecutors had criminalized normal networking. He said, "There is simply no indication of Ms. Butina seeking to influence or undermine any specific policy or law or the United States -- only at most to promote a better relationship between the two nations."