In plea deal, Russian woman admits to being a secret agent

In this courtroom sketch Maria Butina left is shown next to her attorney Robert Driscoll before U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan during a court hearing at the U.S. District Court in Washington Thursday Dec. 13 2018. Maria Butina a Russian accuse

Maria Butina, the Russian woman arrested in July and accused of acting as a foreign agent within the United States has pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy.

The Russian national accused of illegally conspiring to influence American politics officially changed her plea to guilty as expected on Thursday.

Mueller has brought criminal charges against a series of Russian individuals and entities but those cases are still pending.

The 30-year-old previously denied trying to infiltrate the National Rifle Association and relaying intelligence on U.S. politicians to a Russian government official.

Court documents detail how Butina saw the Republican Party as prime for Russian influence and courted conservatives through networking and contacts with the NRA.

Butina had served as an interpreter for Torshin, an NRA member, as he attended its annual conventions, and her profile as a self-made gun activist in Putin's restrictive Russian Federation charmed American associates.

Butina's case, brought by federal prosecutors in Washington, also comes amid a broader push by the Justice Department to enforce USA laws governing foreign agents, including those accused of working for Russian Federation.

On July 18, after Butina had been arrested, Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs asserted that her arrest was created to undermine the "positive results" of President Trump's meeting with Putin at the Helsinki Summit.

Prosecutors say Butina's work was directed by a former Russian lawmaker who recently was penalized by the Treasury Department for his alleged ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Prosecutors have accused Butina, who was jailed awaiting trial, of working with a Russian official and two US citizens to try to infiltrate the NRA, a group closely aligned with Republican politicians including President Donald Trump, and sway Washington's policy toward Moscow.

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 plea deal, Russian woman admits to being a secret agent

One of the two Americans referenced in the prosecution's criminal complaint was Paul Erickson, a conservative U.S. political activist who was dating Butina. Both in court and in the filings, prosecutors refer to what is apparently the GOP as "Political Party #1".

Pushing her travel to the US and her work with the NRA as selling points, Butina argued that she had already "laid the groundwork for an unofficial channel of communication with the next USA administration".

A Russian woman has admitted to acting as an agent for the Kremlin to get close to the Republican party in an effort to influence USA policies.

Butina appeared in court Thursday wearing a green jail uniform, her red hair in a long braid running down her back.

In their filings, prosecutors have said federal agents found Butina had contact information for people suspected of working for Russia's Federal Security Services, or FSB, the successor intelligence agency to the KGB.

Chutkan said she did not find that Butina's lawyer Driscoll acted improperly, but said it was why a public defender was appointed.

Butina's lawyer has argued she is simply a student interested in better US-Russia relations. Butina said that her mind was "absolutely clear" when she made this admission.

Butina, jailed since her arrest in July, had mounted an aggressive defence and tried to have the charges against her tossed.

A sentencing date was not set yet, as Butina had cooperated with investigators, but a status hearing date was set for February 12.

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