The spy story genre has provided a multitude of fiction books and “The Americans” television series gave United States residents a well-researched education in how Russian spies operate in our country.
But the Maria Butina tale, about a Russian woman who conspired to infiltrate the NRA, is true.
On Thursday, it was announced she will be sentenced April 26, after pleading guilty in December to conspiring with a senior Russian official to gain entry into conservative American political circles by acting as an undeclared agent for the Kremlin.
U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan set sentencing in Washington D.C., after Assistant U.S. Attorney Erik Kenerson said prosecutors were ready, signaling Butina had completed her cooperation with investigators probing her efforts on behalf of the Russian government to forge ties with gun rights advocates at the National Rifle Association and other U.S. conservatives leading up to the 2016 U.S. election.
Butina, 30, admitted to working at the direction of Alexander Torshin, a Russian former government official and with an American political operative to forge connections with NRA officials, conservative leaders and 2016 residential candidates, including Donald Trump.
In her plea deal, Butina said she began to act on behalf of the Russian government in 2015 and continued her work after moving to the United States to attend graduate school at American University in 2016.
She was interviewed once by prosecutors with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s office, a debriefing that lasted about an hour, according to a person familiar with the interview.
Butina’s attorney, Robert N. Driscoll, said the former graduate student was ready to learn her punishment, which previously was delayed when prosecutors said they still might need her cooperation in contingent matters.
It’s not clear what the status of Butina’s case might mean for the Republican operative with whom she worked. He has been identified by government officials as Paul Erickson, a longtime GOP political adviser from South Dakota who managed the 1992 presidential campaign of Pat Buchanan.
She has been in custody since being charged in July and that time served likely would be a substantial portion of whatever sentence she faces, the judge said.
Butina is expected to be deported to Russia after completing her sentence, according to plea filings.