Accused Russian spy attended 2014 NRA meeting in Indianapolis
The FBI has arrested a Russian national, accused of acting as an unregistered foreign agent in the United States with the intent to influence a major American political party and a “GUN RIGHTS ORGANIZATION.”
It’s been determined that Maria Butina attended her first NRA convention in Indianapolis in the spring of 2014.
In the criminal indictment unsealed in Washington on Monday, the U.S. Department of Justice alleges Butina, 29, acted, “as an agent of the Russian Federation within the United States without prior notification to the Attorney General.”
The indictment claims Butina, along with an unnamed top ranking Russian official whose description matches that of Alexander Torshin, a former Russian lawmaker reported to have close ties to President Vladimir Putin, “took steps to develop relationships with American politicians in order to establish private, or as she called them ‘back channel’ lines of communication. These lines could be used by the Russian Federation to penetrate the U.S. national decision-making apparatus to advance the agenda of the Russian Federation.”
The indictment alleges Butina and Torshin had help from an American linked to the gun rights group.
“U.S. Person 1 worked with BUTINA to jointly arrange introductions to U.S. persons having influence in American politics, including an organization promoting gun rights (hereinafter “GUN RIGHTS ORGANIZATION”), for the purpose of advancing the agenda of the Russian Federation.”
In the May/June 2018 edition of Mother Jones, reporters confirmed tweets posted on Butina’s account showed her brandishing a semi-automatic rifle at the NRA convention in Indianapolis in April 2014, where both Rolling Stone and McClatchy reported she attended her first national conference of America’s foremost gun rights organization.
The indictment alleges Butina and Torshin, “planned to advance Moscow’s long-term strategic objectives in the United States, in part, by establishing relationships with American political organizations, including the GUN RIGHTS ORGANIZATION.”
“The (GUN RIGHTS ORGANIZATION) [is] the largest sponsor of the election to the US congress,” read the indictment.
McClatchy previously reported that the FBI was investigating Russian attempts to funnel money to the Trump presidential campaign through the NRA, a claim the gun rights group has denied.
Torshin said in 2011 that he was a “life member” of the NRA along with Butina whose stated goal was to further the right to private firearms ownership in Russia.
Torshin also attended successive NRA conventions in 2015, 2016 and 2017 where he reportedly met with Donald Trump, Jr., in Louisville.
During the most recent NRA convention in Dallas, protestors circled the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in a truck with a billboard lampooning, in English and Russian, the NRA’s link to Russia.
The NRA’s next convention, to be chaired by newly installed President Oliver North, will be held in Indianapolis in April, 2019.