News

World

Alleged Russian Spy Maria Butina Reaches Plea Deal with Prosecutors

Maria Butina (YouTube)

Maria Butina, a Russian national and former American University student accused of acting as a Kremlin spy in the U.S., reached a plea deal with prosecutors Monday months after initially pleading not guilty to illegally acting as a foreign agent.

Butina, who stands accused of infiltrating Republican political circles to advance Russian interests during the 2016 presidential campaign, had maintained her innocence from the time she was arrested in July until her attorneys filed a request for a “change of plea” hearing that could happen as soon as Tuesday.

The 30-year-old Russian national moved to the U.S. to pursue a graduate degree after founding a gun-rights organization in Russia. Her history as a gun-rights activist allowed her to make inroads with top NRA officials and other prominent conservative activists.

While her defense attorneys have maintained that those contacts amounted to nothing more than professional networking, federal prosecutors have argued that she was working to further Russian foreign-policy goals at the direction of Alexander Torshin, the deputy director of the Russian central bank.

It remains unclear exactly how Butina’s efforts fit into the broader Kremlin operation to help elect Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016, but it appears she was keen to help overturn existing economic sanctions against Russia. At a public town-hall event in Las Vegas in 2015, Butina had the opportunity to question Trump directly regarding his thoughts on the sanctions imposed against Russia in 2014 to punish their annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

“We get along with Putin,” Trump told Butina. “I don’t think you’d need the sanctions.”

Butina also tried unsuccessfully to broker a meeting between then-candidate Trump and Torshin at an NRA convention in May 2016. Torshin and Butina met briefly with Donald Trump Jr. at the event, according to documents provided to Congress.

Most Popular

Culture

What We’ve Learned about Jussie Smollett

It’s been a few weeks since March 26, when all charges against Jussie Smollett were dropped and the actor declared that his version of events had been proven correct. How’s that going? Smollett’s celebrity defenders have gone quiet. His publicists and lawyers are dodging reporters. The @StandwithJussie ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Lessons of the Mueller Probe

Editor’s Note: The following is the written testimony submitted by Mr. McCarthy in connection with a hearing earlier today before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on the Mueller Report (specifically, the first volume of the report, which addresses Russia’s interference in the 2016 ... Read More
Elections

Kamala Harris Runs for Queen

I’m going to let you in on a secret about the 2020 presidential contest: Unless unforeseen circumstances lead to a true wave election, the legislative stakes will be extremely low. The odds are heavily stacked against Democrats’ retaking the Senate, and that means that even if a Democrat wins the White House, ... Read More
World

Why Are the Western Middle Classes So Angry?

What is going on with the unending Brexit drama, the aftershocks of Donald Trump’s election, and the “yellow vests” protests in France? What drives the growing estrangement of southern and eastern Europe from the European Union establishment? What fuels the anti-EU themes of recent European elections and ... Read More
Energy & Environment

The Climate Trap for Democrats

The more the climate debate changes, the more it stays the same. Polls show that the public is worried about climate change, but that doesn’t mean that it is any more ready to bear any burden or pay any price to combat it. If President Donald Trump claws his way to victory again in Pennsylvania and the ... Read More
White House

Sarah Sanders to Resign at End of June

Sarah Huckabee Sanders will resign from her position as White House press secretary at the end of the month, President Trump announced on Twitter Thursday afternoon. https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1139263782142787585 Sanders, the daughter of former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, succeeded Sean ... Read More
Politics & Policy

But Why Is Guatemala Hungry?

I really, really don’t want to be on the “Nicolas Kristof Wrote Something Dumb” beat, but, Jiminy Cricket! Kristof has taken a trip to Guatemala, with a young woman from Arizona State University in tow. “My annual win-a-trip journey,” he writes. Reporting from Guatemala, he discovers that many ... Read More