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.


Indian police arrest 61 Rohingya Muslims this week

Updated 57 min 20 sec ago
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Indian police arrest 61 Rohingya Muslims this week

  • Indian border guards have denied Bangladesh media reports that India is pushing Rohingya across the border
  • More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled from Myanmar, chiefly to Bangladesh, since August 2017

GAUHATI,India: Police in northeastern India say they have arrested 61 Rohingya Muslims this week amid reports that more than 1,300 have recently crossed the border into Bangladesh.
In Assam state, police say they arrested 30 Rohingya, including 12 children, who were found traveling on a bus Monday night to Gauhati, the state capital.
In neighboring Tripura state, police said they arrested 31 Rohingya on Tuesday after they spent two days in a no man’s land along the border with Bangladesh.
Indian border guards have denied Bangladesh media reports that India is pushing Rohingya across the border.
More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled from Myanmar, chiefly to Bangladesh, since August 2017 to escape army-led violence against them. India has deported more than a dozen in the past two months for illegal entry.