Not a spy but still an agent is how the government portrayed Russian gun rights enthusiast Maria Butina who managed to establish close relationships with senior members of the National Rifle Association and the Republican Party.
From the government’s sentencing memo:
Butina was not a spy in the traditional sense of trying to gain access to classified information to send back to her home country. Acquiring information valuable to a foreign power does not necessarily involve collecting classified documents or engaging in cloak-and-dagger activities. Something as basic as the identification of people who have the ability to influence policy in a foreign power’s favor is extremely attractive to those powers. This identification could form the basis of other forms of intelligence operations, or targeting, in the future.
Butina received a sentence of eighteen months. With credit for time already served she will be ready for deportation back to Russia in approximately nine months.
A circus was expected but it turned out to be a routine, though well attended, fifteen minute arraignment. Stone will be back in court on Friday for a hearing before judge Amy Berman Jackson.
Russia is just as gun crazy as the U.S. so why not make connections and alliances with the NRA as a way to influence American policy? It was a good plan and Maria Butina sounded proud of her efforts as she entered a plea of guilty in federal court this week. Her answers to the judge’s questions were remarkably rapid and crisp, almost as if she were responding to a drill sergeant.
George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign adviser who’s conversation with an Australian diplomat in a London bar in 2016 was partly responsible for launching an FBI investigation into Russian meddling in the presidential elections was yesterday sentenced to 14 days in prison, 200 hours of community service and fined $9,500.
Part “Red Sparrow”, part “The Americans”, the picture painted by the government during yesterday’s detention hearing for alleged Russian agent Maria Butina had elements of a spy thriller. Charged with failing to register as a foreign government agent, Butina, according to the government had ties to Russian intelligence.
A Russian gun rights activist, she came to Washington on a student visa, attended American University, and developed ties to the NRA as well as a personal relationship with a Republican consultant. It was also said that she traded sex “in exchange for a position within a special interest organization.”