Russia expert: Butina indictment sheds light on larger Russian effort to infiltrate U.S. politics

Russia expert Casey Michel explained on Thursday that the indictment of Russian citizen Maria Butina this week sheds light on a larger effort from Moscow to infiltrate U.S. politics. 

“This is one part of a broader interference operation,” Michel, who is a reporter for Think Progress, told Hill.TV’s Krystal Ball and Buck Sexton on “Rising.” 

“Everything that the [Department of Justice] laid out in its complaints, in its indictment against Maria Butina, is some of the most detailed looks at some of the relationships that have been built up, the types of relationships, how they went about doing it, and just what they achieved with it,” he continued. 

The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced on Monday that Butina, who had been living in Washington, D.C., was being charged with conspiring to work for the Kremlin by pursuing relationships and infiltrating organizations that influence U.S. politics. Butina was allegedly in close communication with a senior Russian official about her work.

“The court filings detail the Russian official’s and Butina’s efforts for Butina to act as an agent of Russia inside the United States by developing relationships with U.S. persons and infiltrating organizations having influence in American politics, for the purpose of advancing the interests of the Russian Federation,” the DOJ said in a press release. 

Butina was arrested Sunday and appeared in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Monday. A judge on Wednesday ordered that she remain in jail until her trial as a potential flight risk.

The indictment came as President Trump cast doubt, during a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, on the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election. The next day, Trump said he trusts the intelligence community’s conclusion. 

On Friday, special counsel Robert Mueller, who is probing Russian interference, indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers in the 2016 hacking of the Democratic National Committee.

— Julia Manchester

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