Accused Russian agent Butina poised to plead guilty -US court papers

Accused Russian agent Maria Butina appeared poised this week to plead guilty in the case, after her lawyers and prosecutors filed a joint motion asking a federal judge on Monday to schedule a change of plea hearing this week. Vanessa Johnston has the story. (REUTERS)
Updated 11 December 2018
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Accused Russian agent Butina poised to plead guilty -US court papers

  • In a Dec. 8, 2016, class project at American University, she gave a presentation titled “What Might President Trump’s Foreign Policy Be Toward Russia?” and listed several of Russia’s policy objectives

WASHINGTON: Accused Russian agent Maria Butina, suspected of trying to infiltrate the National Rifle Association and influence US policy toward Russia, is expected to plead guilty this week following a deal between her lawyers and US prosecutors, according to court filings on Monday.
Exactly how the deal will be structured for Butina was not immediately clear. US District Judge Tanya Chutkan in Washington scheduled a hearing for Wednesday.
CNN reported on Monday that Butina had already begun to cooperate with prosecutors, citing one source familiar with the matter. A representative for the US Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the case.
ABC News first reported that Butina would cooperate with prosecutors.
Butina, a former American University graduate student, had previously pleaded not guilty to US charges in July that she was acting as an agent of the Russian government and conspiring to take actions on Russia’s behalf.
Prosecutors have accused her of working with a Russian official and two US citizens to try to infiltrate the powerful NRA lobby group that has close ties to Republican politicians including President Donald Trump, and influence Washington’s policy toward Moscow.
Butina’s lawyers previously identified the Russian official as Alexander Torshin, a deputy governor of Russia’s central bank who was hit with US Treasury Department sanctions in April.
One of the two Americans mentioned in the prosecutors’ criminal complaint was Paul Erickson, a conservative US political activist who was dating Butina. Neither Erickson nor Torshin has been accused by prosecutors of wrongdoing.
Butina’s cooperation will mainly focus on telling investigators about the role of Erickson and her interactions with Russian officials, CNN reported.
The case against Butina is being prosecuted by the US Attorney’s Office in Washington and the National Security Division, and not US Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 US election and any coordination between Moscow and Trump campaign members.
The government’s complaint against Butina did not explicitly mention Trump’s campaign. Trump has denied any collusion with Moscow occurred.
Reuters previously reported, however, that Butina was a Trump supporter who bragged at parties in Washington that she could use her political connections to help get people jobs in the Trump administration.
In a Dec. 8, 2016, class project at American University, she gave a presentation titled “What Might President Trump’s Foreign Policy Be Toward Russia?” and listed several of Russia’s policy objectives, according to a copy reviewed by Reuters.
Whether she could help shed any light on contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russia is not known.
Moreover, the prosecutors in her case have previously made mistakes, including erroneously accusing Butina of offering sex in exchange for a position in a special interest group. The errors could possibly have helped give Butina more leverage in reaching a plea deal.


China suspends Canadian meat imports amid Huawei dispute

Updated 26 June 2019
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China suspends Canadian meat imports amid Huawei dispute

  • The latest action against Canada comes as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau heads to Japan for the G-20 summit
  • Before acting against Canadian meat, China previously stopped importing certain Canadian products like canola

TORONTO: China is suspending all meat imports from Canada amid their dispute over the Canadian detention of a top executive at the Chinese tech company Huawei.
The Chinese Embassy in Ottawa said in a statement on its website Tuesday that the move follows Chinese customs inspectors’ detection of residue from a restricted feed additive, called ractopamine, in a batch of Canadian pork products. It is permitted in Canada but banned in China.
“China has taken urgent preventive measures and requested the Canadian government to suspend the issuance of certificates for meat exported to China,” the statement said.
Meng Wanzhou, the Huawei CFO and daughter of the company’s founder, was arrested Dec. 1 in Canada at the request of US authorities, who want to try her on fraud charges.
China then detained two Canadians and sentenced another to death in an apparent attempt to pressure for her release.
The latest action against Canada comes as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau heads to Japan for the G-20 summit. US President Donald Trump is expected to meet with his Chinese counterpart amid trade talks.
Meng’s arrest set off a diplomatic furor among the three countries, complicating high-stakes US-China trade talks and severely damaging Beijing’s relations with Ottawa. Canada wants Trump to speak on behalf of Canada to Chinese President Xi Jinping. The Chinese have refused to talk to senior Canadian government officials, including Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland. Trudeau had hoped to meet with Xi at the G-20 but that appears unlikely.
Before acting against Canadian meat, China previously stopped importing certain Canadian products like canola.
Justine Lesage, a spokeswoman for Canada’s agriculture minister, said in a statement that the Canadian Food and Inspection Agency identified an issue involving inauthentic export certificates that could affect the export of pork and beef products to China.
She said the agency has “taken measures to address this issue and is continuing to work closely with industry partners and Chinese officials.”
“The Canadian food system is one of the best in the world and we are confident in the safety of Canadian products and Canadian exports,” she said.