GOP lawmaker says he met with indicted Russia woman in 2015
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) on Tuesday said he once met with the Russian woman who was indicted Monday on charges of acting as an unregistered foreign agent of Moscow.
But the California Republican said he does not know whether he is the U.S. congressman referenced in the indictment of Russian gun-rights activist Maria Butina, according to Politico.
The indictment states that Butina, 29, discussed with a top Russian official – widely believed to me Alexander Torshin – a plan to “meet with a U.S. Congressman during a Congressional Delegation trip to Moscow in August 2015.”
Rohrabacher told Politico that he was part of the congressional delegation that visited Russia in August 2015, but he played down the significance of a meeting with Butina, saying he was joined by another U.S. lawmaker along with other Americans.
“I know I had dinner with [Butina] along with another member, along with a visiting delegation to Russia,” Rohrabacher told Politico. “Is that something we should be worried about?”
The Daily Beast reported Tuesday that an aide to Rohrabacher had confirmed that he was the lawmaker mentioned in the indictment, but insisted that the meeting was “of no consequence.”
“All he could recall about Ms. Butina is that she was an aide to Torshin who arranged a [breakfast] meeting and was of no consequence other than that,” the aide, Ken Grubbs, told The Daily Beast.
“His CODEL [congressional delegation] as well as his meeting with Torshin all came under the normal, fact-finding auspices of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats,” he added.
Prosecutors allege in the indictment that Butina acted with “the purpose of advancing the interests of the Russian Federation” at the direction a “high-level” Russian official. She was arrested on Sunday and charged with conspiracy to act as an agent of the Russian Federation within the U.S. without notifying the Justice Department.
Rohrabacher told Politico that the indictment of Butina, who has been living in the U.S., was “ridiculous” and “an attempt to undermine the president’s ability to have better relationships with Russia.”
“It’s ridiculous. It’s stupid,” he told Politico. “She’s the assistant of some guy who is the head of the bank and is a member of their Parliament. That’s what we call a spy? That shows you how bogus this whole thing is.”
Rohrabacher has for years held a reputation as one of the most pro-Russia members of Congress and has been an ardent defender of efforts to improve relations between the two countries. But that reputation has come under scrutiny recently because of the ongoing special counsel investigation into Russia’s efforts to meddle in the 2016 election.
Rohrabacher has not been accused of any wrongdoing, and he told Politico that he has not heard from special counsel Robert Mueller or his team.