A Russian gun rights activist will plead guilty to conspiracy to act as an unregistered foreign agent and cooperate against her boyfriend, a longtime GOP operative, ABC News reported.
Maria Butina, 30, will admit in the plea deal that she “agreed and conspired, with a Russian government official (‘Russian Official’) and at least one other person … to act in the United States under the direction of Russian Official without prior notification to the Attorney General,” according to a copy obtained by ABC.
Butina’s lawyers and prosecutors requested earlier Monday a change of plea hearing. The hearing will be held Wednesday.
The Russian official referred to in Butina’s court filings is believed to be Alexander Torshin, the deputy chief of the Russian national bank. The other individual is likely Paul Erickson, a political operative with links to various conservative groups. (RELATED: Alleged Russian Agent Maria Butina Is Changing Her ‘Not Guilty’ Plea)
As part of her plea, Butina will admit that she “sought to establish unofficial lines of communication with Americans having power and influence over U.S. politics.”
Prosecutors in Washington, D.C., have accused Butina and Torshin of attempting to infiltrate conservative groups, including the National Rifle Association (NRA). The pair established close contacts with the group through a Russian gun rights group that they formed called the Right to Bear Arms.
Butina was indicted on July 17 on conspiracy charges and charges that she failed to register as a foreign agent with the Justice Department. She initially pleaded not guilty, claiming that her interactions with Torshin and contacts with conservative groups were intended to improve relations between the U.S. and Russian governments.
But prosecutors have pointed to evidence that Butina, Torshin and Erickson operated covertly.
Butina sent Torshin a message after they hosted an NRA delegation in Russia in 2015, according to ABC. “We should let them express their gratitude now, we will put pressure on them quietly later,” the translated message said.
Prosecutors have also claimed that Butina had links to Russian intelligence officials.
Butina’s case is not being handled by the special counsel’s office, which is probing possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government. But Erickson did make at least one attempt to establish contacts between the campaign and Torshin.
He sent an email in May 2016 entitled “Kremlin connection” to Trump campaign official Rick Dearborn seeking a meeting between Torshin and President Donald Trump. The meeting never occurred, and it is not clear what Dearborn did with the email. Torshin did briefly meet the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. on the sidelines of the NRA convention in Louisville, Kentucky, in May 2016.
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