Maria Butina, alleged Russian spy, agrees to cooperate with prosecutors in plea deal: report

Butina was charged in federal court in July with being an agent of the Russian government without being registered

By Nicole Karlis

Senior Writer

Published December 10, 2018 11:05PM (EST)

Maria Butina (AP)
Maria Butina (AP)

Maria Butina, a 30-year-old gun rights activist who has been accused of being a Russian spy and trying to infiltrate conservative politics, has reportedly agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors in ongoing investigations and plead guilty to conspiracy, according to ABC News.

According to the agreement, part of which was revealed to CNN and viewed by ABC, Butina "agreed and conspired, with a Russian government official ('Russian Official') and at least one other person, for Butina to act in the United States under the direction of Russian Official without prior notification to the Attorney General."

Sources have alleged that "other person" is Republican operative Paul Erickson, whom she had a romantic relationship with, according to ABC.

ABC also reports that the “Russian Official” is Alexander Torshin, deputy governor of the Russian Central Bank:

Based on the description, the “Russian Official” appears to be Alexander Torshin, deputy governor of the Russian Central Bank and a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Under his direction, the agreement said, she “sought to establish unofficial lines of communication with Americans having power and influence over U.S. politics.”

The agreement, which Butina signed on Saturday, Dec. 8, also notes that the conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison, but the deal could see Butina receive a lesser sentence, depending on the level of her cooperation, before likely being deported back to Russia."

According to both ABC and CNN, Butina's alleged cooperation will mostly focus on uncovering Erickson's role. A plea hearing has been set for 3:15 p.m. on Wednesday, according to CNN.

Butina was charged in federal court in July with being an agent of the Russian government without being registered as such. Butina entered the U.S. in August 2016 on a student visa to study international relations at American University. The affidavit from July claimed that she had corresponded with a Russian official using email, Twitter and other electronic means.

"BUTINA'S efforts in the United States to promote the political interests of the Russian Federation were diverse and multifaceted," the affidavit explained, "including BUTINA'S efforts to organize a series of 'friendship and dialogue' dinners, some of which are believed to have taken place in the District of Columbia, as well as BUTINA'S attendance at two National Prayer Breakfasts in the District of Columbia."

While Butina has not yet been prosecuted by special counsel Robert Mueller, her story connects the Trump campaign to the National Rifle Association (NRA).

By Nicole Karlis

Nicole Karlis is a senior writer at Salon, specializing in health and science. Tweet her @nicolekarlis.

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Maria Butina Paul Erickson Russian Spy Maria Butina Vladimir Putin