UPDATE: A judge has ordered that Butina remain in jail.
WASHINGTON, DC — A Russian national with deep ties to the National Rifle Association who was charged with being a Russian spy will appear in court Wednesday.
A federal grand jury approved a criminal indictment of Maria Butina earlier this week on charges of conspiracy and acting as a foreign agent. She will appear at a hearing Wednesday in D.C. following the Monday indictment. The Washington Post reports that this will be a detention hearing and preliminary hearing.
Butina is accused of trying to create a “back channel” of communication with politicians in the United States. She allegedly tried to do that through the National Rifle Association, and numerous photos have surfaced online of her hobnobbing with many high-powered NRA officials and politicians.
Butina’s indictment comes days after indictments against 12 Russian nationals for their alleged involvement in meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and comes at the same time as Trump was participating in a widely panned joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland.
Butina’s charges are separate from the probe by Robert Mueller. The Justice Department’s national security division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia is pursuing Butina’s case.
Butina is a Russian national and political-science student who found her way at some of the most important events in the U.S. conservative movement for the past five years, according to a Washington Post report.
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She had many friendships with leaders in the National Rifle Association and the Conservative Political Action Conference as a gun rights advocate. By August 2016 when she moved to the United States on the student visa, the FBI took a special interest in her, the Post reported.
Officials tracked her movements to figure out what her intentions were. Butina reportedly attended a ball at Trump’s inauguration and tried to arrange a meeting between the newly sworn-in president and a senior Russian government official at the annual National Prayer Breakfast the next month.
Jeff Sharlet, an author and professor at Dartmouth, tweeted that Butina took advantage of the National Prayer Breakfast as an easy way to circumvent State Department vetting.
The Family – & spies like Maria Butina – use the National Prayer Breakfast precisely because it’s not transparent. “It totally circumvents the State Department and the usual vetting within the administration that such a meeting would require,” an internal source boasts.
— Jeff Sharlet (@JeffSharlet) July 17, 2018
HELSINKI, FINLAND – JULY 16: Russian President Vladimir Putin hands U.S. President Donald Trump (L) a World Cup football during a joint press conference after their summit on July 16, 2018 in Helsinki, Finland. The two leaders met one-on-one and discussed a range of issues including the 2016 U.S Election collusion. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
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