Accused Russian spy attended 2014 NRA meeting in Indianapolis

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Butina, a prominent gun rights activist in Russian Federation, worked as a special assistant to Torshin and appeared alongside him at several conservative political events, including National Rifle Association conventions in recent years and the National Prayer Breakfast in 2017, according to the Post.

Her arrest was announced as President Donald Trump flew back from Helsinki to Washington, following an inaugural summit with Vladimir Putin at which he was accused of failing to stand up to the Russian leader over electoral meddling. Torshin, who is not mentioned by name in the affidavit, is a high-ranking Russian official who became deputy governor of the Russian central bank. Prosecutors also note that the official has since been sanctioned by the US. The Treasury Department sanctioned Torshin in April 2018 as part of an effort to punish the Russian government for "malign activity" around the world.

A 29-year-old Russian woman living in Washington has been arrested and charged with conspiracy to act as an agent of the Russian government while developing ties with American citizens and infiltrating political groups, the U.S. Justice Department said Monday.

The complaint cited three specific "overt acts" Butina committed to further her conspiracy, including her entrance to the U.S.in August 2016 on an F-1 student visa for the "purported goal of attending university full time in the District of Columbia".

In a statement released after Butina's arrest, Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said she had "been charged with acting as a surreptitious Russian agent and establishing a secret back channel with the GOP through the NRA".

Court filings accuse her of "developing relationships with USA persons and infiltrating organizations having influence in American politics, for the objective of advancing the interests of the Russian Federation".

Marina Butina with Russian politican Alexander Torshin at the National Prayer Breakfast
Marina Butina with Russian politican Alexander Torshin at the National Prayer Breakfast

Charges against Butina are "simply a misuse of the Foreign Agent statute, which is created to punish covert propaganda, not open and public networking by foreign students", Butina's attorney Robert Driscoll said in a statement.

She allegedly worked at the direction of a high-level Kremlin official. She began reaching out to NRA members and other American gun enthusiasts in 2013, on several occasions hosting NRA executives and gun activists in Moscow, including one delegation that included former Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke, the Post reported. A spokesperson for the University did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

She has previously denied having worked for the Russian government.

Torshin and Butina unsuccessfully tried to secure a meeting with President Trump before the 2016 election, a source familiar with the matter told CBS News last November.

Trump, who is not named in any of the documents charging Butina, also repeated on Monday that he considers the Mueller probe a "witch hunt".

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