Russian Spy targeted GOP and Conservatives

By Ronald Horvath | Jul 18, 2018


Butina, Russian gun rights activist linked to NRA, charged as Kremlin agent


Maria Butina, the Russian gun-rights activist who was recently arrested by the FBI and charged with conspiracy, was indicted by a grand jury on Tuesday on a second offense of acting as an agent of a foreign government.

Butina, who is alleged to have been a “covert Russian agent” developing an “influence operation” in the United States since 2015, faces a statutory maximum of five years in prison for the first offense and a statutory maximum of 10 years in prison for the second offense.

It is routine for prosecutors to seek a grand jury indictment after initially filing charges with a criminal complaint. According to a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia, Butina is due to appear before Judge Deborah A. Robinson in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday.


Butina denied the charges through an attorney, who called the complaint against her “overblown” and said she “intends to defend her rights vigorously and looks forward to clearing her name.”

Butina, 29, had been a mysterious presence in conservative circles over the past several years. She cofounded the Russian gun-rights group “The Right to Bear Arms” with Alexander Torshin, one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest allies, and then, according to prosecutors, used those seemingly shared interests to cultivate ties to high-ranking NRA officials and conservative politicians in the United States.

Butina and Torshin were frequent attendees of the annual NRA conventions, and former NRA president David Keene returned the favor. In 2013, Butina introduced Keene at the Right to Bear Arms annual conference in Moscow, and in 2015, she hosted a delegation of NRA board members, including Keene, in Moscow.

The relationship appears to have positioned her to get close to other powerful people, including the president. At the FreedomFest conference in Las Vegas in July 2015, Butina asked then-candidate Donald Trump a question about whether he would uphold “damaging” Russian sanctions. She also attended the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. in February 2017, where President Trump was the keynote speaker.


Meanwhile, she was pursuing a master’s degree in international relations from American University, where she graduated in May, but law enforcement officials now believe that was just a cover as she acted as a “covert Russian agent” seeking to “exploit personal connections” and “infiltrate organizations active in U.S. politics in an effort to advance” Russian interests.

Throughout her time in the United States, according to the affidavit attached to the initial criminal complaint, she received guidance from an unnamed Russian official who, based on the description, appears to be Torshin, and coordinated with two unnamed U.S. persons, whose identities remain opaque.

According to the affidavit, Butina and the Russian official “took steps to develop relationships with America politicians in order to establish private, or as she called them, ‘back channel’ lines of communication. These lines could be used by the Russian Federation to penetrate the U.S. national decision-making apparatus to advance the agenda of the Russian Federation.”

That effort appears to have been focused on the NRA. In private messages, Butina emailed one of the unnamed U.S. persons, describing what she called the “central place and influence” the NRA enjoys in an unnamed political party as the “largest sponsor of the elections to the US congress, as well as a sponsor of The CPAC conference and other events.”

The following year, that U.S. person emailed an acquaintance, saying “I’ve been involved in securing a VERY private line of communication between the Kremlin” and leaders of an unnamed political party through an unnamed gun rights organization.

 

https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/russian-gun-rights-activist-linked-nra-indicted-acting/story?id=56649422

Comments (2)
Posted by: Ronald Horvath | Jul 20, 2018 10:48

"Her apparent associate (or perhaps dupe) in her intelligence operations was U.S. “political operative” Paul Erickson, who was 30 years older than Butina but reportedly lived with her. He’s had his own colorful pre-espionage career, which included Pat Buchanan’s 1992 presidential campaign..."


"Butina also took advantage of Erickson’s links with the Christian right, as Slate’s Ruth Graham reports, though Torshin had his own relationships in that universe, having attended multiple National Prayer Breakfasts."

"Earlier, in 2015, Butina and Erickson also appeared on the radio show of conservative evangelical superstar (and big-time Trump promoter) Eric Metaxas to discuss gun rights and religious freedom — topics that are strangely congruent in the conservative Christian circles in which all these birds flew.


[Putin’s evangelical fan club] includes some pretty big names, like conservative Evangelical leader Franklin Graham, National Organization for Marriage leader Brian Brown, and American Family Association spokesperson Bryan Fischer. In almost every case it has been his distinctive combination of homophobia and Islamophobia that has made Putin one of the Christian right’s favorite international figures. The cultural conservative preference for authoritarian Christian Slavs who are fighting Muslims has … carried over from the Serbs to their traditional sponsors in Moscow, and most especially to the former KGB officer who has revived Russia’s pre-communist tradition of militantly traditionalist Christianity."

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/07/alleged-spy-butina-tied-to-christian-right-gun-groups.html?utm_source=fb&utm_medium=s3&utm_campaign=sharebutton-t



Posted by: Ronald Horvath | Jul 19, 2018 06:54

"The National Rifle Association has accepted contributions from at least 23 Russia-linked donors since 2015, the gun rights group revealed in a letter addressed to Congress. The admission came after Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, prodded the NRA as part of an investigation into what political organizations may have been used by Russia to influence the 2016 election in favor of Donald Trump.  "

Kremlin-linked politician Alexander Torshin, a "life member" of the NRA since 2012, was among the list of donors, but Frazer said the organization was "currently reviewing our responsibilities with respect to him" after the Russian national was listed last week in new U.S. sanctions. In January, McClatchy DC first reported that FBI officials were investigating whether Torshin, who is also a deputy head of Russia's central bank, had illegally funneled money to the NRA in an effort to help Trump."
https://www.newsweek.com/nra-admits-accepting-money-23-russia-linked-donors-882310



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