Maria Butina in her first interview: I’m no spy
The Russian who pleaded guilty to conspiring to act as a Russian agent, Maria Butina, rejects the idea that she was spying for intelligence at a set of interviews with The New Republic, the very first known that she has given.
Instead of acting in secret her main point, like a spy would she had posted all over social media about the trips she took and the folks she met, such as politicians. “If I would be an invisible Russian spy, you would never find me in people,” she told author James Bamford in audiotapes he shared with CNN. “I mean, I’d be the most hidden person on earth.”
Instead of espionage, she explained, her goal was to improve relations between the united states and Russia while studying international relations. “Who even has an idea, to put a student in prison?” Bamford was asked by her. She explained if anything, it was Russian authorities she was worried about getting arrested by, due to her highly visible job leading a Russian gun rights group.
Butina explained the FBI raid on her flat in April 2018, a few months before her arrest, was a six- or seven-hour ordeal that began with representatives pounding on her door as she was baking soda bread. “They told me, ‘FBI. Search justify.’ I opened up the door — they pushed me,” she explained. “I was completely shocked.” She said prosecutors bruised her with a claim they later withdrew: that she had offered what they described as “sex in exchange for a position within a particular interest organization.” The prosecutors discarded that allegation.
“It’s so much pain, for your household,” she explained, “for the previous 40 days, me being called a whore. It is very hard.” Butina pleaded guilty in December to one count of conspiracy to act as an unregistered agent of Russia. That official has been recognized by CNN as Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s Central Bank, with whom she was connected by email, according to court documents.
Bamford, who says because they attended Washington occasions on a policy that he knew her for 2 years, sees her efforts to nurture ties with Republicans. “She had been doing this openly, inviting individuals to go to these friendship dinners. “That’s exactly what you do — you network — when you are in these areas.”
He sees Torshin’s function more to her as mentors or an advisor, as somebody who wanted to improve US-Russia relations exactly like she did. “The facts show she wasn’t a spy, which she wasn’t paid, never direct from the Russian authorities. She didn’t do the job for Torshin,” he explained. “There is no evidence that she actually did anything illegal passed data, or collected information and passed it to the Russian government.”
It is not being bought by former FBI spycatcher Eric O’Neill. “They need to spin a narrative where the US is abusing some poor Russian national who is just on a student visa. We know that is not true,” he explained. “The FBI ran a pretty airtight evaluation: We’ve got deep emails between her and her Russian handler, we’ve Twitter communications, they got her phone records and many of those emails point for her as a Russian intelligence “
But Bamford, who’s published several books states prosecutors overcharged. “Believe me, she isn’t a spy. She is not even charged with being a spy,” he stated, “And she is not an agent of a foreign government.” Butina consented in her plea agreement to turn over any evidence of crimes she is mindful of, and submit a full accounting of her monetary assets, sit interviews with law enforcement (and waive the right to counsel through these interviews) and testify before grand juries or in trials in Washington or elsewhere.
She faces a maximum of five years in prison, but will likely receive to six months according to her plea agreement. Butina would be deported after serving her sentence.
The conspiracy, as prosecutors explained it in court, kicked off no later than March 2015 using a draft proposal Butina wrote to Torshin and others known as the “Description of the Diplomacy Project.” It explained her strategy to be a conduit of communication between Russia and the US at a time when both authorities were willing to negotiate officially, through the Republican Party.
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