December 12, 2018


Maria Butina set to plead guilty to conspiring to act as agent of Kremlin, documents shows (Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger December 11, 2018, Washington Post)

The young Russian operative called her strategy the "Diplomacy Project," an elaborate, multiyear scheme to infiltrate the conservative movement in the United States in hopes of cementing bonds to benefit the Kremlin.

Maria Butina laid out the proposal in March 2015 and then pursued her plan over the next two years, traveling to conferences to schmooze Republican presidential candidates. She established close ties to top officials in the National Rifle Association. She hosted "friendship dinners" with wealthy Americans. And she organized a Russian delegation to attend the influential National Prayer Breakfast in Washington.

Much of Butina's work has been reported over the past year as part of a broader campaign by Moscow to influence U.S. elections -- but new details are included in documents obtained by The Washington Post that will be filed in court Thursday, when Butina is expected to admit for the first time that her activities were part of a concerted endeavor, coordinated with a top Russian official with the express intent of establishing unofficial lines of communication with Americans who could influence U.S. politics.

The documents show Butina plans to admit she worked at the direction of a former senator who was deputy governor of the Russian central bank. That description matches Alexander Torshin, who was subjected to economic sanctions by the U.S. government earlier this year and resigned his bank position in November.

Butina is being prosecuted by the U.S. attorney's office in Washington, not special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. But with a plea, she will become the first Russian national convicted of working to influence U.S. policy around the time of the 2016 election.

Posted by at December 12, 2018 3:57 AM