REPORT: NRA-Affiliated Woman Charged As Russian Agent Offered Sex To Infiltrate Special Interest Group

NPR reports:

A Russian woman charged this week with serving as a foreign agent was in regular contact with Russian intelligence, the Justice Department says, and she attempted to offer sex in exchange for a position with an organization she targeted.

Prosecutors included that information in court documents as part of their request that Maria Butina be detained ahead of her trial because they say she is a “serious” flight risk. The government’s attorneys cited “the nature of the charges, her history of deceptive conduct, the potential sentence she faces, the strong evidence of guilty, extensive foreign connections and her lack of any meaningful ties to the United States.”

The FBI said it has determined that even though she had a personal relationship with Person 1, identified by NPR as political fundraiser Paul Erickson, she “offered an individual other than Person 1 sex in exchange for a position with a special interest organization. Further, in papers seized by the FBI, Butina complained about living with Person 1.”

The New York Times reports:

Does it seem strange that, according to a criminal complaint unsealed on Monday by the Justice Department, a Russian woman stands accused of “acting as an agent of a foreign government” in part because she hoped “to establish a back-channel of communication” with American politicians at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington?

It shouldn’t. As Jeff Sharlet, an associate professor of English at Dartmouth, has pointed out, the National Prayer Breakfast has long offered “a backdoor to American power.” And America’s homegrown Christian nationalists have evinced an admiration for Russia’s authoritarian leader that appears to have grown apace with his brutality.

On Tuesday, Maria Butina, a 29-year-old Russian whose name was spelled Mariia in court papers, was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of conspiracy and acting as an unregistered foreign agent for the Russian Federation. According to the complaint unsealed on Monday, Ms. Butina’s promotional activities for Russian political interests included attending the National Prayer Breakfast twice.