Russian government claims accused NRA spy Maria Butina was TORTURED

Saul Bowman
December 14, 2018

A Russian woman accused of being a secret agent admitted Thursday that she conspired to infiltrate the American gun-rights movement to gather intelligence on conservative political groups as Donald Trump rose to power.

Prosecutors say she worked with a Russian official and two USA citizens to try to infiltrate the NRA lobby group and influence Washington's policy towards Moscow. She has described Butina's arrest as politically motivated.

Erickson helped Butina target Republican officials and pave the way for access to an unnamed "wealthy and well-connected U.S. person" who hosted "friendship dinners where other wealthy and influential Americans discussed U.S. -Russia relations".

Her lawyer, Robert Driscoll, estimates that she could face up to six months in prison, Reuters news agency reports. She also blogged about her work on LiveJournal and wrote about it on social media.

The NRA didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

As part of her plea, Butina admitted seeking to establish and use "unofficial lines of communication with Americans having influence over US politics" for the benefit of the Russian government, through a person fitting the description of sanctioned Russian central banker Alexander Torshin, prosecutor Erik Kenerson said.

Butina's case, brought by federal prosecutors in Washington, comes amid a broader push by the Justice Department to enforce US laws governing foreign agents, including those accused of working for Russian Federation. As a result, she admitted to the court that she took part in a "Diplomacy Project" in March of 2015, a project funded by a Russian billionaire.

Erickson's description appears to match "Person 1" mentioned in the statement of offense.

In the "Diplomacy Project," Butina suggested using unofficial channels to influence US foreign policy. "She has had liaison with Russia's foreign ministry, she's had diplomatic meetings while she was in jail".

Robert Driscoll Maria Butina’s attorney leaves U.S. District Court in Washington Thursday Dec. 13 2018. Maria Butina a Russian accused of being a secret agent for the Russian government has pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in federal court

In a statement Wednesday, Erickson's lawyer, William Hurd, said, "Paul Erickson is a good American". "Butina predicted that the candidate nominated by Political Party #1 would likely win the upcoming USA presidential election".

This week, Trump's longtime fixer was sentenced to three years in prison and said he'd assist prosecutors, and the president's former national security adviser acknowledged he'd sat for 19 interviews with prosecutors and provided thousands of pages of documents.

A hearing was set for February 2019 to discuss a sentencing date for Butina, who faces a maximum of five years in prison and will likely be deported back to Russian Federation after serving her time.

Although there are no sentencing guidelines for her specific crime, her lawyer, Robert Driscoll, estimated that under United States sentencing guidelines for similar crimes, she could face up to six months in prison.

"Further, Butina opined that the circumstances were favorable for building relations with a certain US political party", the filing reads.

The work ran through Election Day 2016 and into the following year, when Torshin instructed Butina about which Russian attendees to arrange to become part of a delegation to the National Prayer Breakfast on February 2, 2017.

While Trump has denied any collusion with Moscow, Russia, in turn, has also denied interfering in the United States politics. Trump said he would.

Prosecutors say that Butina's main goal was to develop and secure relationships with American politicians, utilizing her contacts within the NRA to help with that goal0. Butina gave speeches and did not shy away from the camera when meeting with powerful members of the Republican Party or while attending National Rifle Association conventions.

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