New court filings contain further details about what the government says were the 29-year-old’s activities as a Russian agent attempting to influence U.S. politics.
Maria Butina, the 29-year-old Russian woman now under arrest in Washington D.C. and charged with acting as a covert Russian agent attempting to influence United States politics, one offered to have sex with someone who wasn’t her then-boyfriend if it would get her a job in a “special interest organization” that may be the National Rifle Association, new court documents filed by the government and posted on Twitter say.
The Department of Justice allegations against Butina say that she works for Russian government official Alexander Torshin as party of a secret Russian operation to form ties with top Republican and right-wing groups, largely by infiltrating what the documents call “a gun rights organization.”
That group is generally believed to be the National Rifle Association, according to The Washington Post.
The Post also reported that in closed-door testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee that she was in a romantic relationship with longtime conservative activist Paul Erickson. But in Wednesday’s filing, prosecutors say that Butina, who is 27 years younger than Erickson, offered sex to someone else in order to secure “a position within a special interest organization.” Whether that organization is the same as the “gun rights” group mentioned in earlier government documents is unclear.
It was Butina who, less than a month after Donald Trump declared his candidacy in 2015, asked him at a rally if he would lift sanctions on Russia, according to a Post timeline — the first time Trump had been asked the question in public. Why Butina happened to be at that rally, and how Trump arranged to call on her for a question, remains unclear. Watch that incident in the video below, courtesy of The Guardian newspaper.
The latest government filings in the case make federal prosecutors’ arguments that Butina should be held in custody and not released on bail, because she may flee, the government says. According to Vox.com, the government portrays Butina as anything but committed to her relationship with “U.S. Person 1,” who is believed to be Erickson.
In addition to offering sexual favors to another person in exchange for an unspecified job, “Butina complained about living with U.S. Person 1 and expressed disdain for continuing to cohabitate with U.S. Person 1,” the documents say. While Butina’s lawyers argue that the Russian graduate student has ties to the United States that would precept her from fleeing to Russia, prosecutors call those ties, namely her relationship with the person believed to be Erickson, “a duplicitous relationship.
But Butina did find Erickson good for at least one thing, according to the U.S. District Court for Washington D.C. filings, which say that she would “routinely” ask her boyfriend to help her cheat on her grad school homework by “answering exam questions.”
“Butina’s efforts in the United States came as a number of Republicans began rethinking the party’s traditional hostility to Russia, forming new bonds with Putin’s government around conservative social views on religion and same-sex marriage,” according to The Washington Post. “That shift culminated with the November 2016 election of Trump, who had argued throughout his campaign that the United States should seek warmer relations with Russia.”
Butina also attended Trump’s inauguration, and during the campaign attempted to set up a face-to-face meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, The Post reported.
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