Accused Russian agent Maria Butina pleads guilty in United States to conspiracy

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

Accused Russian agent Maria Butina pleads guilty in United States to conspiracy

The court has not yet set a sentencing date, but set a status hearing for February 12, the Washington Post reported. As part of a plea deal, prosecutors dropped a charge of acting as a foreign agent. He said he did not know in which jurisdiction Butina would be helping a criminal investigation, if she does indeed cooperate with one involving Erickson.

The charge of conspiracy opens the possibility that other people could also be charged in the case.

Butina is also expected to reveal information about her one-time boyfriend and political player Paul Erikson, who has visited her in prison since her arrest. While she was living in Washington, D.C., Butina attended events including National Rifle Association conventions, rallies for President Donald Trump, and the National Prayer Breakfast.

Butina is the founder of the Right to Bear Arms, a Russian gun rights group.

Also revealed at the beginning of the hearing was the reason that Judge Tanya Chutkan mysteriously appointed a public defender to serve as an advisory counsel to Butina.

A senior Russian lawmaker says he's convinced that the Russian woman who's pleaded guilty to being a secret agent in the United States has done so under pressure. Butina's lawyers identified the man as Aleksandr Torshin, but he was not mentioned by name in the official plea document submitted to the court.

Prosecutors say it is "very likely" she will be deported from the USA after her sentence is completed.

"Is your mind clear?" the judge asked. Driscoll said accommodations had been made since that filing to allow her out of her cell more often and that Butina "is doing well mentally".

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
Accused Russian agent Maria Butina pleads guilty in United States to conspiracy

Butina appeared in court Thursday wearing a green jail uniform, her red hair in a long braid running down her back. Assistant U.S. Attorney Erik Kenerson, bottom left, and co-defense attorney's Alfred Carry, right, listen.

Butina admitted to working with an American political operative and under the direction of a former Russian senator and deputy governor of Russia's central bank to forge bonds with officials at the National Rifle Association, conservative leaders, and 2016 US presidential candidates, including Donald Trump, whose rise to the Oval Office she presciently predicted to her Russian contact.

Torshin - a lifetime NRA member - reportedly retired last month.

Butina interacted with a number of officials and powerful actors in the Republican Party and members of the National Rifle Association while attending school in the USA capital.

The U.S. Justice Department alleged that Butina was a "covert Russian agent" who maintained connections with Russian spies in a mission aimed at penetrating "the U.S. national decision-making apparatus to advance the agenda of the Russian Federation". Erickson, who is referred to as "U.S. Person 1" in court papers, he has not been charged.

"Paul Erickson is a good American".

Judge Chutkan revealed that the government had recordings of Butina carrying on a jail phone call with a journalist, a fact that raised questions as to whether the gag order on the case had been violated.

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".

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