Russian national indicted on two charges, including acting as a foreign agent
A federal grand jury formally approved a criminal indictment of Maria Butina with two charges, conspiracy and acting as a foreign agent.
Butina will appear at a hearing Wednesday in Washington, DC, following the news Monday that the Department of Justice was charging Butina with one charge of conspiracy, but had not yet gone to grand jury.
Butina is a Russian national and gun rights activist who was arrested Sunday and is facing criminal charges for acting as a foreign agent in the US.
The Russian national stands accused of working with her mentor, Alexander Torshin, to develop “back channel” communication with US politicians, according to an FBI affidavit.
Butina spoke little at her first appearance in court Monday. According to her attorney Robert Driscoll, Butina testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee in closed session several months ago and was subject to an FBI raid in April.
“We’ve been trying to work something out, unsuccessfully, with the government, who seems intent on pressing forward with incarceration, notwithstanding, you know, a pretty weak case,” Driscoll said Monday.
In a statement on Monday, Driscoll denied that his client was “an agent of the Russian Federation.”
Although not explicitly mentioned in Monday’s court filings, CNN reporting and the court documents indicated that the primary avenue of influence for Butina and Torshin is the National Rifle Association.
The charges taken together amount to a federal case alleging links between Russian attempts to influence US politics and the nation’s preeminent pro-gun rights organization, and they come just days after the Justice Department announced indictments against 12 Russian nationals accused of being behind hacks in the lead-up to the 2016 US presidential elections.
While last week’s indictments came from the special counsel probe led by former FBI Director Robert Mueller, the charges against Butina filed on Monday came from the Justice Department’s national security division and the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.