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BANGKOK 23 May 2019 00:35
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Admitted Russian agent Butina asks U.S. court to be lenient

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Admitted Russian agent Butina asks U.S. court to be lenient

By Ginger Gibson

 

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Maria Butina appears in a police booking photograph released by the Alexandria Sheriff's Office in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S. August 18, 2018. Alexandria Sheriff's Office/Handout via REUTERS/Files

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Maria Butina, who has admitted to working as a Russian agent to infiltrate an influential U.S. gun rights group and make inroads with conservative activists and Republicans, asked the court to sentence her to time served ahead of her April 26 sentencing, according to court documents.

 

Butina, 30, a former graduate student at American University who publicly advocated for gun rights, pleaded guilty in December to one count of conspiring to act as a foreign agent for Russia. She has remained in custody since her arrest in July 2018.

 

"Although Maria has committed a serious offense, just punishment does not require additional incarceration," her attorneys argue in a sentencing memo filed on Friday.

 

Butina, a Russian citizen, expects to be sent back to her native country after being released from jail, her attorney said.

 

"She has been separated from her family, in a foreign country, for over nine months. She has languished for three of those months in administrative segregation - solitary confinement by another name — where she was enclosed in a small cell for 22 hours a day," the filing states.

 

Butina has admitted to conspiring with a Russian official and two Americans from 2015 until her arrest to infiltrate the National Rifle Association and create unofficial lines of communication to try to make Washington's policy toward Moscow more friendly. The NRA is closely aligned with U.S. conservatives and Republican politicians including President Donald Trump.

 

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan in February delayed sentencing at the request of prosecutors, who said Butina was cooperating in their ongoing investigation. Butina's attorney, Robert Driscoll, said at the time his client was ready for sentencing.

 

Russia in December accused the United States of forcing Butina to falsely confess to what it described as the "absolutely ridiculous charges" of her being a Russian agent.

 

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-- © Copyright Reuters 2019-04-20

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oh how my heart bleeds, poor little girl, being locked up

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I'm sure a call from Trump's handler will sort this out forthwith.

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5 minutes ago, TallGuyJohninBKK said:

 

No, everything she did was NOT legal... She was working to influence U.S. politics on behalf of a foreign government without having legally registered as a foreign agent, as required by federal law.

John, you seem like an intelligent person. So I won't accuse you of being stupid in how you quoted me out of context. But the only other option is that you were being a bit sneaky. 😉

 

Everything she did, in and of itself, was legal. Her crime was failing to register.

 

We can quibble back and forth over to what extent she was acting "on behalf of" the Russian government, and to what extent she was "working to influence U.S. politics." The intelligence analysts I read found the case curious because she really wasn't asking anything. *Maybe* she was a "spotter," who sought to make those early connections so that others could exploit them. *Maybe* she was just trying to promote herself and/or her causes, and the governmental contacts were incidental. 

 

 

 

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2 minutes ago, TallGuyJohninBKK said:

Try applying some common sense:

Aww...do I have to? Only if you promise to stop pulling mid-paragraph sentences out of context.

2 minutes ago, TallGuyJohninBKK said:

--How did a Russian woman from Siberia of all places end up getting a student visa to study in  the U.S.?

--Who paid for her studies at American University?

You might think these are poignant questions. I find them offensive, as someone who is very close with a Russian woman from Siberia (of all places), who got a student visa and did graduate study in the United States. Read the indictments and read the reporting. Is there even an allegation that the Russian government paid for her studies? Is your next argument going to be that the FSB paid for her undergraduate and her teaching degree, or that Putin gave her the startup funds for her retail business? I see that she once owned seven furniture stores, and that her parents are an engineer and a business owner. But I guess it's just easier to assume that everyone from Siberia is too unsophisticated to qualify for a tourist visa, and too poor to pay for it. 

 

In all seriousness, maybe she had help. She seemed to be good at getting close to men. Paul Erickson was probably her sugar daddy, and he set up a business to help pay for Butina's expenses. Maybe she also had an assistantship at AU (that's how I got my graduate degrees). Whatever the case, there's zero evidence of Russian government money bankrolling her studies.

13 minutes ago, TallGuyJohninBKK said:

--Was it just a coincidence she ended up at a university in Washington DC of all places?

Maybe, maybe not. She had already been with Erickson, who has D.C. connections. She visited while working as Torshin's assistant, too. And AU's international affairs program is extremely strong.

16 minutes ago, TallGuyJohninBKK said:

--Was it just a coincidence she ended up in bed/involved with a Republican political operative.

Maybe, maybe not. Maybe she got involved with him and THEN was approached by Torshin about exploiting the relationship (there's no evidence of this). Maybe she saw a potential sugar daddy, green card, or chance to network and promote herself. 

20 minutes ago, TallGuyJohninBKK said:

--How did it come to pass that this Russian woman from Siberia was working with/on behalf of a senior Russian politician?  Why her of all people?

Again, this is offensive. You frame it like she lived in an igloo. She comes from a district with 2.5 million people, and a city with 600,000+. She won a local election at age 19. She's clearly an enterprising person. She liquidated most of her businesses, moved to Moscow, and got involved in politics. I know plenty of Russians, and given this woman's background, it's not surprising that she'd be able to get a job like that.

29 minutes ago, TallGuyJohninBKK said:

I could go on.... But anyone with half a whiff of common sense can pretty well figure what was going on here.

So could I, but how's this for common sense:

 

You are suggesting that she was much more than someone who made connections, communicated with elected officials (not the FSB or the military, mind you), and failed to register for those activities. I'm not naive enough to say you're definitely wrong. I'm sure there are aspects we don't know about. But to suggest that she was up to significantly more, and that her activities were deliberately managed by the Russian government, is:

  1. Not supported by the publicly available evidence,
  2. Calls for some suspensions of "common sense," itself. Think about it: if this was a much bigger plot, then the Russians are taking a successful young woman, pimping her out to a relatively insignificant political consultant, sending her to public events where images and video of her are all over the place, allowing her to go out drinking with her American classmates (where she brags about her government contacts (!?!?!?!)), all in order to...spend a bunch of money giving free trips to American political nobodies with pro-gun ideologies, for the purposes of???

Yeah, there could be more. But if that's how the Russians want to waste their money, I'm laughing. And if that's how they "burn" their assets ("agents"), I'm laughing even more. 

 

It's amateur hour, and that's not usually how the Russians operate.

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