What You Need to Know: Mariia Butina

Maria Butina conspired against U.S. under direction of Russian government

On Thursday, Maria Butina plead guilty to conspiracy to act as an illegal foreign agent in the United States, CNN reported.

First word of the agreement came from reports and court records released Monday.

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Butina, a 30-year-old Russian citizen living in Washington D.C., was charged in July with “undertaking activities without officially disclosing the fact that she was acting as an agent of the Russian government,” according to authorities. Butina was charged on July 16 with failing to register as a foreign agent, as required by law, and pleaded not guilty. 

>> Who is Maria Butina, the woman charged with acting as a Russian agent in the US?

Update 12:01 p.m. EST Dec. 13: In the statement of facts, prosecutors described how Butina planned to infiltrate a U.S. political party, known as Political Party #1 in the legal document. 

She outlined her plan in a proposal called “Description of the Diplomacy Project,” written in March 2015.

In the plan, the statement of facts outlined, Butina predicted that the candidate nominated by said political party would win the election, citing her travel to the U.s. and her attendance at events held by the National Rifle Association, called “Gun Rights Organization in the document. 

She was introduced to members of the so called Political Party #1 as an unofficial representative of the “Russian Official” said to be Alexander Torshin. 

The proposal was written by Butina with help from “U.S. Person 1.”

Over the course of two years, the government said Butina hosted “friendship dinners” with rich Americans, as well as organized a Russian group to attend the 2017 National Prayer Breakfast, The Washington Post reported.

In June 2016, Butina was granted an F-1 student visa to come to the U.S., but did not admit on the application that she would be an agent of a foreign government official or that she would be working on establishing communication between officials of both countries.

>>Click here to read the entire statement of facts

Update 11:56 a.m. EST Dec. 13: Butina’s hearing has ended. A status conference is set for Feb 12, NBC News reported

The plea agreement has also been released, as well as the statement of facts.

Update 11:29 a.m. EST Dec. 13: Butina said that she was working under the direction of a Russian official. 

CNN reported that the unnamed official was Alexander Torshin. 

Torshin was a deputy governor of the Russian Central Bank and part of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, CBS News reported. He retired from the position late last month, days after news first broke that Butina was close to reaching a deal with U.S. prosecutors, Bloomberg reported.

In evidence uncovered in the Butina investigation, Torshin called the woman a rising “political star.” She also asked Torshin to guide her in the effort to “advance Moscow’s long-term strategic objectives” in the U.S., Bloomberg reported in November

Update 11:10 a.m. EST Dec. 13: With Butina’s agreement to plead guilty, she will also cooperate with federal prosecutors, NBC News is reporting

Her lawyers were asking for a sentence from 0 to 6 months. And since the charge is a felony, she also faces deportation, CBS News reported.

Since her arrest in July, Butina has been held in a northern Virginia jail in solitary confinement, CBS News reported.

NBC News reported Butina’s signed statement of offense, which the news outlet received before the hearing, states that she “sought to establish unofficial lines of communication with Americans having power and influence over US politics.” The statement says her efforts were by the direction of the Russian government.

Update 10:57 a.m. EST Dec. 13: Butina has officially signed the plea agreement, CNN reported. 

In the agreement, Butina has agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy charges, CNN reported.

Original report: In a joint motion filed Monday by Butina's attorneys and prosecutors, officials asked for a hearing to change her plea as soon as Tuesday.

"The parties have resolved this matter, and the Defendant Maria Butina remains in custody," the motion said.

Butina’s attorney and prosecutors said last month that they were in talks to settle the case, Reuters reported.

Justice Department officials allege that, starting as early as 2015, Butina schmoozed with influential people and organizations in the U.S. in order to advance the interests of Russia.

>> Russian government accuses FBI of 'political put-up job' after suspected foreign agent indicted

Authorities said she was directed by a “high-level” former Russian lawmaker who was among 24 Russian oligarchs and senior Russian government officials sanctioned by the Treasury Department for profiting from the country’s alleged illegal and subversive activities in the U.S. and abroad.

Butina’s charges were brought by federal prosecutors in Washington D.C. The case is not related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, according to The Associated Press.

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