In plea deal, Russian woman admits to being a secret agent

Russian activist Mariia Butina was arrested Sunday July 15 by the FBI on charges of being an unregistered agent

A Russian former graduate student at American University in Washington who publicly advocated for gun rights, she was accused of working to infiltrate a powerful gun lobby group, the National Rifle Association, and influence US policy toward Moscow.

"Butina sought to establish unofficial lines of communication with Americans having power and influence over US politics", prosecutor Erik Kenerson said at the hearing, reading from the government's statement of facts. She waived her rights to trial and appeal as part of the plea.

Butina, a pro-gun activist, was arrested on 15 July.

Butina acknowledged she "sought to establish unofficial lines of communication with Americans having power and influence over USA politics", according to the plea agreement.

Erickson helped Butina target Republican officials and pave the way for access to an unnamed "wealthy and well-connected U.S. person" who hosted "friendship dinners where other wealthy and influential Americans discussed U.S. -Russia relations".

The Russian national accused of illegally conspiring to influence American politics officially changed her plea to guilty as expected on Thursday.

Maria Butina is in jail accused of acting as a Russian agent to infiltrate the National Rifle Association and influence USA policy toward Moscow.

Pushing her travel to the USA and her work with the NRA as selling points, Butina argued that she had already "laid the groundwork for an unofficial channel of communication with the next US administration".

Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke about Butina on Tuesday in Moscow, a day after United States court filings indicated she would plea guilty in Washington. His lawyer released a statement, saying "Paul Erickson is a good American".

Butina has agreed to cooperate with investigators. The campaign declined a meeting, but documents provided to Congress show Butina and Torshin met briefly during the event with Donald Trump Jr., one of the president's sons. Torshin was hit with U.S. Treasury Department sanctions in April. A hearing was set for February to discuss a sentencing date. "Butina predicted that the candidate nominated by Political Party #1 would likely win the upcoming US presidential election", as Trump did. The letter also reportedly said prosecutors were weighing whether to charge him with conspiracy. He is widely believed to be Alexander Torshin, a Russian banking official who has close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Butina even asked Trump a question at a gathering of USA conservatives in Las Vegas in 2015 when he was running for president, querying him about American relations with Russian Federation and economic sanctions imposed on Moscow by his predecessor, Barack Obama.

She faces a maximum of five years in prison and will likely be deported after serving any time.

He says: "They broke her down. So, unless news surfaces that there was some kind of skirmish or issue within the seems to go against U.S. policy and laws as to who is forced into solitary confinement, just based exclusively on the charges that were lodged against her", Breedon said. "And she posed no threat to the United States, no threat to the secrets of the United States", Kovalik said.

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