While we can only speculate, everything we know tells us the Russian government knew exactly what Maria Butina was doing when she infiltrated the National Rifle Association (NRA) in 2015 and 2016 and now there's a government report that says as much.
According to an exclusive report from the Daily Beast, U.S. intelligence has evidence that the Russian oligarch behind Butina's operation fully briefed the Kremlin on their activities.
According to the report, [Alexander Torshin] suggested that Russian officials use the NRA to reach out to politically active Americans. Torshin, then a deputy governor at Russia’s central bank, noted the gun-rights group’s influence in U.S. politics. He told the Kremlin about his contacts in the NRA, including conversations and meetings in the United States, and suggested that Kremlin officials scrutinize how some people affiliated with the group viewed relations between the U.S. and Russia.
The report notes that Russian officials discussed having their embassy in Washington participate in the work of courting the NRA. Kremlin officials also discussed preparations for NRA members’ upcoming trip to Moscow. Torshin recommended that someone from President Vladimir Putin’s executive office, meaning the group of people who support his day-to-day activities, meet with the group.
The specificity of this report strongly implies that federal investigators are in possession of signal intelligence that captured these conversations.
In other words, there are tapes.
Taking this report into consideration, it's easier to see why Maria Butina agreed to plead guilty to operating as an unregistered foreign agent in exchange for cooperation. It seems clear that the intelligence community knows everything about her mission and exactly how it was planned and carried out.
There's still so much we don't know that special prosecutor Robert Mueller and other federal investigators do know.