Accused Russian Spy Maria Butina Wants to Change Her ‘Not Guilty’ Plea
Maria Butina, a suspected Russian spy accused of trying to create a backchannel between Republican officials and the Kremlin, is suspected to have reached a plea deal with the Justice Department, CNN reports.
Butina’s lawyer and the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia submitted a joint motion Monday to set a change of plea hearing, writing that both “parties have resolved the matter.” Butina, 30, could presumably change “not guilty” plea to “guilty” as soon as Tuesday.
It’s unclear what charges, if any, a deal would include.
Butina, a Russian national who entered the U.S. on a student visa, was charged with conspiring against the U.S. as a foreign agent in July. Although she wasn’t arrested in conjunction with the Mueller investigation, authorities were reportedly investigating whether Butina and her former boss Alexander Torshin, a deputy governor of the Russian central bank, were trying funnel money through the National Rifle Association to the Trump campaign. The two also met Donald Trump Jr. at a dinner in May 2016 during an NRA convention in Louisiana, although Trump’s lawyer told McClatchy, “It was all gun-related small talk.”
Both gun enthusiasts, Torshin tweeted that he and Butina were the “only 2 people from the Russian Federation with the status of ‘Life Member’ [in the NRA].”
Butina was also investigated for her involvement with Republican consultant Paul Erickson over whether he had advised her how to influence members of the GOP to be closer to the Kremlin. Butina had previously lived with Erickson, who told a Trump staffer that he had a “back-channel to President Putin’s Kremlin,” Vox writes.
But just because Butina has presumably reached a plea agreement doesn’t mean that she will be cooperating with the government, providing new information, or even receiving jail time, Bloomberg notes. After all, Anna Chapman and nine other Russian “sleeper agents” were simply sent to Moscow as part of a prisoner exchange after pleading guilty to working on behalf of the Kremlin in 2010.