- In December the 30-year-old pleaded guilty to a single charge of conspiracy to act as an unregistered foreign agent instantly becoming the first Russian national convicted for seeking to influence US politics during the fraught 2016 presidential campaign.
A Russian operative who pleaded guilty to infiltrating the National Rifle Association on behalf of the Kremlin has asked a US court for two more weeks with investigators before she faces sentencing.
In a joint application, lawyers for both Maria Butina and the United States agreed that they required more time so that Butina can finish sharing all that she knows with US officials.
According to the jointly signed court application there’s two weeks of cooperation still to come.
“As part of her plea agreement, the defendant agreed to cooperate with the United States,” the application reads. “The defendant’s cooperation is not yet complete.”
Investigators have at most 14 more days with the foreign agent.
As part of her original deal, Butina pleaded guilty in December to a single charge of conspiracy to act as an unregistered foreign agent and she agreed to cooperate with investigators.
The gun-toting Kremlin operative who tried to infiltrate conservative US political groups as Donald Trump rose to power during the 2016 presidential election, was the first Russian national to be convicted on charges of seeking to have an influence on US politics during campaign and election proceedings.
The case is separate from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Butina, who swiftly gained traction and some notoriety within conservative circles as a gun-rights activist has admitted that she was in fact a secret agent for the Kremlin who sought with some degrees of success to infiltrate conservative American political groups as part of a now well-documented coordinated attempt by Russian state actors to impact presidential elections and political discourse in the United States.
Butina, 30, had been suspected by US investigators of collaboration with a high-ranking Russian government official to destabilize and influence US policy to the advantage of the Kremlin and targeted the NRA to achieve such outcomes..
Federal prosecutors alleged that the gun-loving agent, indicted at the beginning of last year, sought to establish some kind of “back channel” between Russia and sympathetic conservative US groups, using the NRA as a base of operations and access.
The US prosecutors case, Butina’s outlandish mission and the apparent ease of her initial success have given a startling glimpse into another aspect of Russia’s influence operations in the US and the near open-arm naivety that gave it wings.
The case explicitly details how Russia identified and ruthlessly and efficiently exploited hot-button, divisive social issues in the US, in this case gun-control, to gain easy access through a far-right entrance into the mainstream political sphere.
Prosecutors say Butina and her patron, the notorious Russian banker Alexander Torshin, manipulated their various NRA contacts to pursue back channels into American conservatives during the 2016 campaign.
And it worked. In May, Spanish police turned over to the FBI wiretaps of conversations involving Torshin, himself a suspected money launderer, as he met with now-President Donald Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., during the 2016 US campaign.
The case highlights that with agents on the ground, and the Russian troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency, agitating through cyberspace, its unsurprising US intelligence quickly determined that Russia was trying to help elect Trump in part by releasing emails stolen from Democratic Party organizations, and by conducting a sophisticated social media campaign to sow and harvest social and political discord.
Butina will face court again on February 26.