Maria Butina, a 29-year-old Russian national with alleged ties to Russian officials, has been charged in federal court in Washington D.C.. Butina was charged with conspiracy to act as an agent of the Russian Federation and is being held without bond.
According to the United States Department of Justice, Butina has been accused of “infiltrating organizations having influence in American politics, for the purpose of advancing the interests of the Russian Federation.”
She was arrested on Sunday, July 15, and was ordered to be held without bond. At this time, a detention hearing and preliminary hearing are set for Wednesday, July 18.
via Washington Post:
The charges against Butina come days after the Justice Department unveiled an indictment against 12 Russian intelligence officers for allegedly conspiring to hack Democrats in 2016 and just hours after President Trump cast doubt on Russia’s involvement in an extraordinary joint news conference with President Putin.
Butina is accused of developing relationships with American politicians and a “gun rights organization,” none of which are named in the affidavit supporting the criminal complaint. FBI Special Agent Kevin Helson wrote that Butina was attempting to “establish a ‘back channel’ communication for representatives of the Government of Russia.”
The affidavit also contains apparent communications, by direct message on Twitter, between Butina and the unnamed Russian official. “Your political star has risen in the sky,” the official told Butina. “Now it is important to rise to the zenith and not burn out (fall) prematurely,” and they later discussed the “Russia-USA friendship society.”
Butina has ties to the NRA, as she has met former NRA Presidents David Keene and Wayne LaPierre.
If found guilty, Butina faces up to 5 years in prison. At this time, it is not clear if Butina has hired an attorney.
The Justice Department’s press release says that the “investigation into this matter was conducted by the FBI’s Washington Field Office. The case is being prosecuted by the National Security Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and the National Security Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.”