Russian operative Maria Butina says she was not part of ‘grand giant plan’

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By Phil Helsel

Maria Butina, the Russian operative who used her NRA activism to illegally infiltrate conservative political circles, says her only crime was not registering as a foreign agent.

Butina, 30, who pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy, made the comments in an interview with National Public Radio, her first with a U.S. media outlet since she was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison in April.

“I should have registered [as a foreign agent], which I didn’t. And this is why the whole this thing got started,” Butina said, according to portions released ahead of the Friday broadcast of the interview on All Things Considered.

“But that wouldn’t be appropriate to say that this was all one grand giant plan, and I’m a part of some grand giant plan,” she said. “There is no proof of that.”

Butina, a graduate of American University, pleaded guilty in December to one charge of conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign official. She was sentenced to 18 months in prison, but the judge gave her credit for nine months of time served.

Federal prosecutors said that Butina acted as an agent of a Russian government official from around 2015 to 2017 and that “she provided key information about Americans who were in a position to influence United States politics and took steps to establish an unofficial line of communication between Russia and these Americans.”

That Russian government official fits the description of Alexander Torshin, who was formerly deputy governor of the Central Bank of Russia, NBC News has reported.



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