A 29-year-old gun-rights activist served as a covert Russian agent while living in Washington, gathering intelligence on US officials and political organizations and working to establish back-channel lines of communications for the Kremlin, federal prosecutors charged on Monday.
The announcement of the arrest of Maria Butina came just hours after US President Donald Trump met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and just days after special counsel Robert Mueller charged 12 Russian intelligence officials with directing a sprawling hacking effort aimed at swaying the 2016 US presidential election.
Mueller did not file the charge against Butina, but court papers show her activities revolved around US politics during the 2016 presidential campaign and included efforts to use contacts with the National Rifle Association (NRA) to develop relationships with US politicians and gather intelligence for Russia.
Court papers also reveal that an unnamed American who worked with Butina claimed to have been involved in setting up a “private line of communication” ahead of the 2016 presidential election between the Kremlin and “key” officials in a US political party through the NRA.
The court papers do not name the political party mentioned in the October 2016 message, but they contain details that appear to refer to the Republican Party. The documents do not say whether the back channel was ever established.
Butina was not an agent of the Russian Federation, but was instead in the US on a student visa, graduating from American University with a master’s degree in international relations, said Robert Driscoll, Butina’s attorney.
Henry Tong (湯偉雄) and Elaine To (杜依蘭) were preparing to spend their first wedding anniversary in separate prison cells until their acquittal for rioting during Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests. There were gasps and tears of relief in court on Friday last week as a judge declared prosecutors had failed to prove that the couple took part in clashes with police in July last year. The pair walked free in a ruling that has potential consequences for hundreds of other protesters facing similar charges. However, they have a long journey ahead as they try to rebuild their lives and business. “We have already been punished,”
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