Maria Butina, a Russian woman living in Washington D.C., was arrested and charged with conspiracy for allegedly working under the direction of a high-level official in the Russian government to develop relationships in the United States and infiltrate organizations with influence on American politics, the Department of Justice announced Monday. File Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo
July 16 (UPI) -- A Russian woman living in Washington, D.C., was charged with conspiracy to act as a Russian agent, the Justice Department announced Monday.
Federal authorities arrested Maria Butina, 29, on Sunday for allegedly working under the direction of a high-level official in the Russian government to develop relationships in the United States and infiltrate organizations with influence on U.S. politics, the Department of Justice said.
"The filings also describe certain actions taken by Butina to further this effort during multiple visits from Russia and, later, when she entered and resided in the United States on a student visa," a news release from the department said. "The filings allege that she undertook her activities without officially disclosing the fact that she was acting as an agent of Russian government, as required by law."
The affidavit alleges Butina worked at the discretion of the Russian official -- who was previously a member of the legislature of the Russian Federation and later became a top official at the Russian Central Bank -- from as early as 2015 and continuing through at least February 2017.
The Department of Justice also noted the Russian official was sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control in April 2018.
Butina was named in a report by Democrats on the Senate judiciary committee, citing documents suggesting Russia used the National Rifle Association to secretly fund President Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.
The report states Butina and Alexander Torshin -- the deputy governor of the Central Bank of Russia -- and their intermediaries "repeatedly offered the campaign back channels to Russia and relayed requests from President [Vladimir] Putin to meet with Mr. Trump."
It added Butina also founded Right to Bear Arms, the Russian equivalent of the NRA, and started a business with former Trump adviser Paul Erickson.
The charges come after Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced new indictments Friday against 12 Russian intelligence officials, accused in the 2016 hacking of the Democratic National Committee.
Trump also said he didn't "see any reason" why Russia would interfere in the election at a joint news conference Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin.