US arrests, accuses woman of acting as Russian agent
WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal prosecutors in Washington revealed today they have arrested a 29-year-old woman and accused her of working as a covert Russian agent, gathering intelligence on American officials and political organizations through her gun-rights contacts.
The announcement of the arrest of Maria Butina came just hours after President Donald Trump met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and just days after special counsel Robert Mueller charged 12 Russian intelligence officials with directing a sprawling hacking effort aimed at swaying the 2016 election.
Mueller didn't file the charge against Butina, but court papers show her activities revolved around American politics during the 2016 campaign and included efforts to use contacts with the National Rifle Association and American politicians to gather intelligence for Russia.
Court papers also reveal that an unnamed American who worked with Butina claimed to have been involved in setting up a "private line of communication" ahead of the 2016 election between the Kremlin and "key" officials in an American political party through the NRA.
The court papers do not name the political party mentioned in the October 2016 message, but they contain details that appear to refer to the Republican Party.
Butina, a Russian national who has been living the U.S., was charged with conspiracy to act as an unregistered agent of the Russian government. A federal judge in Washington ordered her detained until a hearing set for Wednesday, according to a statement from the Justice Department and Jessie Liu, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.