The NRA’s Russian Spy Formally Pleads Guilty

Written by SK Ashby

We knew this was coming but, now that it's official, we have a little more detail.

Maria Butina, the 30-year-old Russian spy who gained access to conservative influence groups by infiltrating the National Rifle Association (NRA), has pleaded guilty to operating as an unregistered foreign agent for the Russian government.

WASHINGTON – Maria Butina pleaded guilty on Thursday to conspiring to act as an agent for the Russian government in the United States, admitting she was involved in efforts to set up informal backchannels between US and Russian officials leading up to the 2016 presidential election.

Butina agreed to cooperate with prosecutors as part of her plea deal, and a lawyer for the government said at her plea hearing that her cooperation was “ongoing.” [...]

Prosecutors say Butina’s American partner — labeled “US Person 1” and known to be South Dakota GOP operative Paul Erickson — helped connect her with prominent conservatives as part of a years-long influence campaign. He has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

The actual court filings makes it seem fairly clear that Paul Erickson had some if not full knowledge of who Butina is and what she was doing.

If that's the case, it could explain why federal prosecutors recently informed Erickson that he's under investigation and could be indicted.

Butina's formal admission of guilt also establishes that she received instructions from Russia and, more specifically, from Russian oligarch Alexander Torshin. Torshin is a governor at the Central Bank of Russia.

Without naming names, the court documents also spell out how she met some of the GOP's biggest political figures including one "Person" who appears to be Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. We already knew Butina met Walker among many others, but the this makes it clear that it was her mission to gain access to them through the NRA.

You can read the full plea agreement here and her formal admission of guilt here.