WASHINGTON ― Maria Butina, a Russian gun rights activist who became enmeshed in Republican politics during the 2016 election, has pleaded guilty to engaging in a conspiracy against the United States by acting as an agent of the Russian Federation.
The 30-year-old was arrested and charged in July. As part of a plea deal, prosecutors dropped a charge of acting as a foreign agent. The charge she pleaded guilty to could carry a term of up to five years in prison, but sentencing guidelines suggest she’d get between zero and six months in prison.
Butina was closely associated with the National Rifle Association. A prosecutor said in court that she “sought to establish unofficial lines of communication with Americans having power and influence over US politics,” according to CNN.
Her plea agreement indicates that Butina admitted that she and “Person 1” ― her boyfriend Paul Erickson ― “agreed and conspired” with a Russian government official and at least one other person “for Butina to act in the United States under the direction of Russian Official,” known to be Alexander Torshin.
“With U.S. Person 1’s assistance and subject to Russian Official’s direction, Butina sought to establish unofficial lines of communication with Americans having power and influence over U.S. politics,” the agreement states. “Butina sought to use those unofficial lines of communication for the benefit of the Russian Federation, acting through Russian Official.”
Butina is one of a number of Russians charged in connection with Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation but is the only Russian national from that group who has appeared in court. (The case is being led by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, not Mueller’s team.)
This story has been updated with additional information.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misquoted the plea agreement as saying Butina sought to use “official lines of communication for the benefit of the Russian Federation.” In fact, the document called those communication lines “unofficial.”