Russian 'agent' arrested in USA to undermine Putin-Trump summit: Moscow


In court documents filed earlier Wednesday, the feds allege that Butina dated a 56-year-old American man - believed to be South Dakota GOP strategist Paul Erickson - for his connections to the Republican Party and the National Rifle Association and also offered another U.S. citizen sex in exchange for a position in a "special interest organization".

A 29-year-old Russian woman was arrested for "conspiring to influence United States politics" by cultivating ties with political groups, including the National Rifle Association.

Moscow on Wednesday slammed the arrest in the United States of a Russian national for conspiring to influence U.S. politics, saying it was meant to undermine the "positive results" of a summit between the USA and Russian leaders.

Court papers unsealed Monday, July 16, 2018, photographed in Washington, shows part of the criminal complaint against Maria Butina.

Prosecutors on Wednesday said Mariia Butina should be held in jail until her trial, because her life in the U.S. has been predicated on deception.

"The defendant's legal status in the United States is predicated on deception", they wrote in a filing Wednesday.

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American investigators executed a search warrant at Butina's Washington apartment in April seizing her electronic devices, including her laptop and iPhone, which contained contact information that includes an email account with an "FSB-associated domain" and "individuals identified as employees of the Russian FSB".

The Russian official is believed to be Alexander Torshin, deputy head of the Russian Central Bank and a target of US sanctions since April.

Butina's arrest came as the Federal Bureau of Investigation feared she was preparing to leave the country.

In a court filing calling for Butina's pre-trial detention, prosecutors disclosed Butina's alleged ties to Russian intelligence.

The FBI uncovered messages shared in March 2017 between Butina and the official, who is presumably Torshin, after media articles were published about her exploits as a gun rights activist.

Butina used a USA citizen, who is not named by prosecutors but matches the description of political operative Paul Erickson, to gain access to an extensive network of Americans in a position to influence political activities in the country, prosecutors said. Butina responded, "Good teachers!" In 2015, a collection of NRA officials flew over to Russian Federation to attend Butina's annual gun conference, the Right to Bear Arms, details of which were included in a report from Democrats on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence made public on March 26.

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USA prosecutors allege that Butina sought to cultivate close ties with the NRA as a conduit to the Republican Party during the 2016 presidential election.

Butina's lawyer argued that she was neither a Russian agent nor a flight risk, noting that she has had plenty of opportunities to leave the country and that she testified voluntarily earlier this year at a closed-door hearing before the US Senate Intelligence Committee. According to the documents she had terminated her apartment lease, packed her boxes, visited a U-Haul truck rental facility and transferred $3,500 to an account in Russian Federation.

"The concern that Butina poses a risk of flight is only heightened due to her connection to suspected Russian intelligence operatives", prosecutors wrote.

"What should not go unnoticed is that all this happened shortly before the bilateral summit in Helsinki, of course, with the obvious goal of diminishing its positive effects", Zakharova noted.

She added that the Russian Consul in U.S. was attempting to get access to Butina.

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Trump , meanwhile, has been criticized for being reluctant to speak publicly about Russian interference into the campaign. He also observed that the so-called "witch hunt" doesn't look like the baseless fantasy Trump portrays it to be.

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