Earlier this summer, Russian citizen Maria Butina was arrested by the United States Government and charged with being a Russian intelligence asset working to influence American politics. Butina was the head of a small Russian version of the NRA called The Right to Bear Arms (cute), and was connected with American NRA officials, dubious banking interests, and GOP political operators. On Friday, NPR reported that the U.S. attorney’s office for Washington, D.C., is in talks with Ms. Butina’s counsel, according to court filings.
Her lawyers have said she is simply a naive young woman who was “jabbering” about her efforts to influence U.S. politicians.
A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment on the filing because the case remains pending.
Since her arrest, there have been reports of large sums of money connecting Butina with conservative think tanks, GOP operatives, money laundering, and all sorts of criminal banking intrigue. Her work with Russian banker and politico Alexander Torshin, an NRA member, has led to questions about the potential Russian sourcing of Trump’s and the NRA’s money. While reports have been mostly speculative, the circumstantial evidence is clearly strong. Whatever it is that the Department of Justice believes it has on Butina, it was enough for it to bring in Will Mackie, an expert in “national security law [with] experience in looking at illegal arms dealing.”
How this makes it way back toward Trump’s presidential campaign (and possibly the RNC) is through Butina’s and Torshin’s connections to Russian gun manufacturers Kalashnikov Concern and Tula Cartridge Plant. Those companies have had a hard time getting their guns into the United States because of sanctions. The government is arguing that Ms. Butina has always been a Russian spy or asset and that her organization, The Right to Bear Arms, has always been her cover.
And if the words “Russia” and “sanctions” ring a bell in tandem with the Trump campaign, it’s because that’s what all of this has always been about: Russia freeing itself up from the economic sanctions the United States has imposed on it.
*The arrest of Butina suggests that The Right To Bear Arms organization is being considered a cover.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.