The Department of Justice on Monday said that Butina was being directed by a "high-level" Russian official as she cultivated relationships with the National Rifle Association (NRA) and with conservative politicians from 2015 to 2017.
Maria Butina, 29, who accompanied Republican activist Paul Erickson to President Trump's inauguration, was charged with a second offense of acting as a foreign agent, which has its own 10-year-maximum prison sentence, as Politico reported; she had been arrested Sunday on a charge of conspiracy to act as an unregistered agent of the Russian government.
The Justice Department referenced a high-level Russian official Butina allegedly worked with several times in the indictment on Monday.
A US grand jury returned an indictment against a Russian woman on Tuesday, and added a charge accusing her of acting as a Russian government agent while developing ties with American citizens and infiltrating political groups.
Court papers also reveal that an unnamed American who worked with Butina claimed to have been involved in setting up a "private line of communication" ahead of the 2016 election between the Kremlin and "key" officials in an American political party through the NRA. Driscoll said Butina was not an agent of the Russian Federation but was instead in the US on a student visa, graduating from American University with a master's degree in worldwide relations.
Butina, a Russian national who has been living in the US, was charged with conspiracy to act as an unregistered agent of the Russian government.
The Justice Department said Butina had broken USA law by not disclosing to U.S. authorities that she was acting on behalf of the Russian government.
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The Justice Department said in its complaint that Butina worked with two unnamed USA citizens and the Russian official to try to influence American politics and infiltrate a pro-gun rights organization. "The complaint is simply a misuse of the Foreign Agent statute, which is created to punish covert propaganda, not open and public networking by foreign students". In April 2018, the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctioned Torshin.
Trump on Monday again denied any collusion between his campaign and the Kremlin and appeared to accept Russian denials of any meddling in U.S. elections following his summit with Putin.
Though he walked back those comments on Tuesday, he continued to insist Russians were not the only party that meddled in the election. After the visit, Butina emailed the organizer of the breakfast thanking him for a gift and "for the very private meeting" that followed the breakfast.
It said Butina and the official sought to develop relationships with U.S. politicians to create "back channel" lines of communications that could be "used by the Russian Federation to penetrate the U.S. national decision-making apparatus".
"Our delegation can not stop chatting about your wonderful dinner", Butina wrote. Other media reported on a business relationship between Butina and Torshin.
She and Torshin also attended a series of NRA events in the United States starting in 2014.