Maria Butina’s Defiant Plea and Yet Another Russian Ploy
The onetime graduate student admits to being a foreign agent who sought to establish back channels to Republicans through the NRA.
The first Russian to be convicted of trying to infiltrate and influence American policy makers in the run-up to the 2016 election walked into a courtroom on Thursday with her head held high, gazing defiantly at the audience that had gathered to watch her plead guilty.
Wearing a green prison uniform over a billowy long-sleeved shirt with two large holes in each elbow, Maria Butina affirmed to a judge in the Washington, D.C., district court that between 2015 and 2018 she acted with another American, under the direction of a Russian official, as a foreign agent to “establish unofficial lines of communication” with influential politicians—back channels she sought to establish, primarily, by hobnobbing with Republicans at conventions hosted by the National Rifle Association.
Maria Butina is the first Russian to be convicted of trying to influence American politics in the run-up to the 2016 election. She has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, writes Natasha Bertrand, and could help shed light on “whether there was any coordination between President Donald Trump’s campaign, Russia, and the NRA during the election.”