Posted: 3:47 pm Wednesday, July 18th, 2018
By Jamie Dupree
A federal judge on Wednesday refused to release a 29 year-old Russian woman who pleaded not guilty to illegal political activity in the United States, as federal prosecutors alleged that Mariia Butina was working “as part of a covert Russian influence campaign” in 2016 and 2017, which was aided by at least one American.
“Because Butina has been exposed as an illegal agent of Russia, there is the grave risk that she will appeal to those within that government with whom she conspired to aid her escape from the United States,” prosecutors said in new court documents filed on Wednesday morning.
Those documents detailed what was described as a ‘years-long conspiracy to work covertly in the United States as an undeclared agent of the Russian Federation,” in which the feds charge, she was “in contact with officials believed to be Russian intelligence operatives.”
The court submission also said that Butina was helped by an unnamed American, referred to as “U.S. Person 1,” a 56 year-old man with whom she was involved in a personal relationship, describing him as “instrumental in aiding her covert influence operation.”
But the feds say he was being used by Butina.
Maria Butina's lawyer Robert Driscoll gave a statement to reporters after the hearing, saying they disagreed with judge's decision to detain her: "She is not an agent of the Russian government … She is innocent of the charges brought against her" pic.twitter.com/vLkJjwMzLd
— Zoe Tillman (@ZoeTillman) July 18, 2018
Butina was in the United States on a student visa, attending classes at American University, located in Washington, D.C. about four miles northwest of the White House.
“Butina would routinely ask U.S. Person 1 to help complete her academic assignments, by editing papers and answering exam questions,” the Justice Department said in court documents, as the feds said, “attending American University was Butina’s cover while she continued to work on behalf of the Russian Official.”
“The evidence establishes that Butina’s purpose for coming to the United States was to work on behalf of the Russian Federation,” the DOJ wrote.
The documents filed on Wednesday also show connections between Butina and what were described as “wealthy businessmen in the Russian oligarchy,” some of whom had funded her activities in the United States.
The documents filed today also indicated that Butina had been under surveillance by FBI agents for some time, as she was seen with a Russian diplomat who is “suspected by the United States Government of being a Russian intelligence officer.”
Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee had pressed that panel to get testimony from Butina, to explore her ties to the National Rifle Association.
“The Republicans refused to allow her to come testify,” Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) told CNN on Tuesday night.
In Moscow, the response from the Russian government was that the FBI was engaged in political tricks, casting Butina as an innocent student in Washington, D.C.
Butina’s arrest ‘a put-up job’ planned to undermine Putin-Trump summit – Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson pic.twitter.com/4clP1hfH6e
— Ruptly (@Ruptly) July 18, 2018