Federal authorities have arrested a Russian woman accused of conspiring to infiltrate American political organizations, including a gun-rights group, at the direction of a senior Kremlin official.
Butina, 29, was charged with conspiring to act as an agent of Russian Federation "by developing relationships with U.S. persons and infiltrating organisations having influence in American politics", it said in a statement.
Butina allegedly serves or served as the deputy to someone identified in court papers only as a "Russian official", who is probably Alexander Torshin, a now-sanctioned Kremlin official who cultivated relationships with American political leaders and the NRA over several years.
Allegedly acting on the orders of Alexander Torshin, a high-level Russian politician and lifelong NRA member, Butina also sought a "back channel" meeting between Presidents Trump and Vladimir Putin during the 2016 election, the New York Times reported past year.
An ally of Putin, Torshin is now a senior official with Russia's central bank and a former top Russian politician.
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.
According to a LinkedIn page for a Maria Butina with a profile picture that resembles pictures of her from news stories, Butina has been a research assistant at American University's Kogod School of Business in Washington, D.C., since October 2017. 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. Trump Jr. has said the interaction was brief and not memorable.
In a December 8, 2016, class project at American University, Butina gave a presentation titled "What Might President Trump's Foreign Policy Be Toward Russia?" and listed several of Russia's key policy objectives, according to a copy reviewed by Reuters.
The following year, that US 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. "The whole world hates us. and yet they make money with us", Trump said.
Driscoll said during the hearing that Butina had recently earned a master's degree in global relations from American University. The indictment accuses Butina of establishing secret communications channels with Republican officials during and after the 2016 election.
The NRA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A source said a year ago that Torshin and Butina were eager for Mr. Trump to travel to Russian Federation to meet with Putin.
Konstantin Kosachev, head of Federation Council (the upper house of the Russian parliament) Foreign Affairs committee told state news agency RIA Novosti, "If her Russian citizenship is confirmed, the Russian Federation will protect Butina".
There was a Russian trying to get in good with the NRA - and David Hogg was all over it Monday.