Justice Department Arrests Russian National with Ties to Trump and the NRA for Allegedly Acting as a Covert Agent

Election '16

Russian citizen Maria Butina has been arrested and is being held by the U.S. government, the Department of Justice announced Monday, for allegedly working as an unauthorized agent of the Russian Federation in the United States.

The arrest and criminal complaint are particularly notable because Butina has reportedly had a connection to President Donald Trump's campaign, the National Rifle Association, and Republican operative Paul Erickson.

"Butina worked at the direction of a high-level official in the Russian government who was previously a member of the legislature of the Russian Federation and later became a top official at the Russian Central Bank," the DOJ said in a press release.

Court filings accuse her of "developing relationships with U.S. persons and infiltrating organizations having influence in American politics, for the purpose of advancing the interests of the Russian Federation."

In a Daily Beast article written in February 2017, reporter Tim Mak found that the former furniture store owner had been "wheeling and dealing with D.C. think-tankers, Republican strategists, and a Russian bank chief with alleged mob connections." She reportedly has been an advocate of gun rights in Russia and was a "special guest" at an NRA meeting in 2014.

Mak also cited sources saying Butina had repeatedly bragged about being an intermediary between the Trump campaign and Russia. The sources told Mak she made these claims shortly after the 2016 election that she attended with Erickson and Trump campaign aides.

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