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Butina cooperating with prosecutors in plea deal

Maria Butina, an accused Russian spy who nuzzled up to the National Rifle Association before the 2016 election, has begun cooperating with federal prosecutors after agreeing to a plea deal, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Posted: Dec 12, 2018 3:55 PM
Updated: Dec 12, 2018 4:14 PM

The Russian government claims that Maria Butina, the accused Russian spy who had cultivated connections with the National Rifle Association before the 2016 US election, was "tortured" while in US custody.

In an exclusive interview with CNN Wednesday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova alleged that Butina was treated to a "medieval inquisition" while in detention and said the Russian government viewed her as a "political prisoner" who had been targeted by zealous American officials. But Zakharova failed to provide any evidence to support her assertions.

"We designated her as a political prisoner from the very first days," Zakharova said.

"It's not about justice, it's not justice. It's just inquisition. It's medieval inquisition. Because she is intimidated, she was tortured and was not treated like a human being, not like a woman. I think she was treated and is still treated probably as a terrorist or something like that," she added.

The US attorney's office declined to comment because the case is pending.

Butina, 30, was charged this summer for illegally acting as a foreign agent for Russia and accused of trying to create a back channel for Russia through activist groups, including the National Rifle Association.

Her case became public on July 16, the same day US President Donald Trump met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, further stoking controversy about Russian efforts to meddle in US political affairs.

Zakharova has dismissed the case as politically motivated, saying: "All the circumstances of that case were political and that is obvious. She is just a normal human being, she was staying in the United States of America, having relationships with different people on different matters within the law and in respect of the American law. And she did nothing wrong, she is not a criminal, not a terrorist ... We have no idea why she was treated like that."

"All the details of that case was closely connected with (the) political relationship between Russia and the United States because all that happened just after two presidents met each other and held negotiations and of course that was (more) evidence that this is a political case and she is a political prisoner," Zakharova said.

Related: Tracking the Russia investigations

Butina, who is currently jailed in Alexandria, Virginia, has been moving toward a deal with federal prosecutors, with a plea agreement hearing expected on Thursday.

Her cooperation will mainly focus on telling investigators about the role of her boyfriend Paul Erickson and her interactions with her Russian handlers, CNN reported Tuesday.

A spokesman for the US Attorney's office in Washington DC declined to comment for that story. Butina's lawyer also declined to comment. A lawyer for Erickson also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

According to the agreement, revealed to CNN, Butina "agreed and conspired, with a Russian government official ('Russian Official') and at least one other person, for Butina to act in the United States under the direction of Russian Official without prior notification to the Attorney General."

Until this week, Butina maintained her innocence and insisted she was a foreign student interested in bettering relations between the US and Russia. Butina previously pleaded not guilty to one count of conspiracy and a second count of acting as an agent of a foreign government when she was arrested in July.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 681613

Reported Deaths: 8076
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1403921855
Ramsey58542944
Dakota52093497
Anoka48037479
Washington30637309
Stearns24839240
St. Louis20269335
Scott19626145
Wright18499163
Olmsted15792110
Sherburne13522100
Carver1206952
Clay915295
Rice9104120
Blue Earth866347
Crow Wing7797102
Kandiyohi744188
Chisago711658
Otter Tail666691
Benton6439101
Mower558038
Winona554452
Goodhue550080
Douglas535484
Itasca516671
Beltrami504672
McLeod501463
Steele500921
Isanti490170
Morrison467563
Nobles448650
Becker434559
Polk433675
Freeborn429538
Lyon394254
Carlton389559
Nicollet377647
Pine373726
Mille Lacs354360
Brown346443
Cass343035
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Todd321734
Meeker304749
Waseca288625
Martin261933
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Hubbard232241
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Houston203816
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Sibley175810
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Aitkin155038
Watonwan155011
Rock138519
Jackson134712
Pope13058
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Pipestone125026
Swift117119
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Murray115110
Stevens112211
Marshall103518
Clearwater101918
Lake91021
Wilkin89614
Lac qui Parle84824
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Mahnomen6819
Grant6718
Lincoln6524
Norman6509
Kittson53322
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Red Lake4777
Traverse4215
Lake of the Woods3884
Cook2120

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 432122

Reported Deaths: 6339
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk67341672
Linn25698353
Scott22828261
Black Hawk19121334
Woodbury16940233
Johnson1659690
Dubuque14547218
Pottawattamie13058183
Dallas12746102
Story1187148
Warren685993
Webster6304102
Cerro Gordo6212102
Clinton620097
Des Moines594482
Muscatine5781108
Unassigned57410
Marshall564280
Sioux542775
Jasper516575
Lee511078
Wapello4993128
Buena Vista472942
Marion449083
Plymouth434083
Henry339940
Jones331158
Bremer325365
Crawford321644
Carroll317053
Washington315754
Benton312656
Boone308736
Mahaska275453
Dickinson270846
Kossuth251471
Jackson246044
Clay245729
Tama238273
Delaware234643
Buchanan233938
Hardin230847
Page221624
Cedar220525
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Wright217641
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Hamilton211752
Harrison198875
Clayton194458
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Butler188836
Floyd187742
Mills185224
Poweshiek181036
Cherokee179440
Iowa176425
Allamakee176252
Lyon174441
Jefferson169138
Calhoun168313
Hancock167335
Winnebago164231
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Cass155556
Louisa154949
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Monroe114033
Ida107538
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Taylor72412
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