Russian spy Maria Butina pleads guilty in USA court

In this courtroom sketch Maria Butina left is shown next to her attorney Robert Driscoll before U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan during a court hearing at the U.S. District Court in Washington Thursday Dec. 13 2018. Maria Butina a Russian accuse

Russian spy Maria Butina pleads guilty in USA court

A woman accused of being a secret agent for the Russian government was expected to plead guilty on Thursday, days after prosecutors signaled they had reached a deal. "That is, she was working for the Russian services as a source to help them spot, assess and target Americans".

As part of that plan, she acknowledged that she conspired with two Americans and a Russian official.

In the statement of offense read aloud in court, one of the prosecutors said Butina had drafted a "Diplomacy Project" that called for establishing unofficial back channels of communication between high-ranking American politicians to help benefit Russian Federation.

"Is your mind clear?" the judge asked.

Robert Driscoll Maria Butina’s attorney leaves U.S. District Court in Washington Thursday Dec. 13 2018. Maria Butina a Russian accused of being a secret agent for the Russian government has pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in federal court
Russian spy Maria Butina pleads guilty in USA court

A sentencing date was not set yet, as Butina had cooperated with investigators, but a status hearing date was set for February 12.

Butina said she acted "under direction of" a Russian official whom CNN has identified as Alexander Torshin, the recently retired deputy governor of the Central Bank of Russia.

A lawyer for Erickson issued a statement after the hearing on Thursday.

Erickson issued a statement on Tuesday through his lawyer Bill Hurd to deny that he has ever done anything to hurt America. "He has never done anything to hurt our country and never would".

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Court documents show Butina lived with a US man in his 50s who has been identified as Paul Erickson, a Republican activist and NRA member. She agreed to turn over any evidence of crimes she is aware of, submit a full accounting of her financial assets, sit for interviews with law enforcement (and waive right to counsel during those interviews) and testify before grand juries or in trials in Washington or elsewhere.

Butina allegedly developed a personal relationship with an NRA-linked Republican activist, Paul Erickson, and lived with him.

Butina's efforts, which continued after she moved to Washington as a graduate student at American University in 2016, included asking whether the Russian government was ready to meet her contacts. Meanwhile, in 2014, Butina was featured in Russia's GQ magazine.

Erickson, for example, sent an email to the office of then-Sen.

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MSNBC host Chris Matthews asked Castro whether Butina was part of a conspiracy to get Trump elected by "channeling" money through the NRA. "I don't think you'd need the sanctions". Sessions in your roles as Trump foreign policy experts / advisors. "Channeling money through the NRA?" "And for reasons that we can discuss in person or on the phone, the Kremlin believes that the only possibility of a true re-set in this relationship would be with a new Republican White House".

The charge of conspiracy opens the possibility that other people could also be charged in the case. In 2015 and 2016, the pair attended at least one NRA conference and a National Prayer Breakfast, the filings say.

"Reaction to the delegation's presence in America will be relayed DIRECTLY [emphasis in original] to the Russian President and Foreign Minister".

She faces a maximum of five years in prison and will likely be deported after serving any time. Depending on how helpful Butia's cooperation is to prosecutors, they may also file an additional letter suggesting the judge lessen that sentence.

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The Russian government objected to Butina's arrest, and accused the United States of subjecting her to "practices that are slightly below torture".

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