Russian woman accused of being foreign agent touted access to Putin: report

Russian woman accused of being foreign agent touted access to Putin: report
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The Russian woman accused of acting as a foreign agent shopped access to Russian President Vladimir Putin as part of her U.S. political operations, ABC News reported on Monday.

Maria Butina, who was indicted earlier this year on charges of operating as an unregistered foreign agent, worked to arrange a meeting between top National Rifle Association (NRA) insiders and one of Putin’s closest advisers, according to email correspondence obtained by ABC News.


The emails, sent between August 2015 and November 2016, also show Butina working with the Outdoor Channel to create a television series featuring Putin and that she touted her “contacts directly within the President’s office.”

She wrote in emails to an Outdoor Channel executive that the program would focus on Putin’s “love of the outdoors.”

Butina told the executive that she had arranged for Kremlin cabinet ministers to come “observe your presidential election in the fall,” though it is unclear if the visits ever occurred.

“This matters to your project because THEY have already lobbied President Putin to do this show as an example of the kind of relationship Russia could have with America … and with President TrumpDonald John TrumpSchiff urges GOP colleagues to share private concerns about Trump publicly US-China trade talks draw criticism for lack of women in pictures Overnight Defense: Trump to leave 200 troops in Syria | Trump, Kim plan one-on-one meeting | Pentagon asks DHS to justify moving funds for border wall MORE,” she wrote in a June 2016 email, according to ABC News.

The 29-year-old has been accused of unregistered lobbying work for Russia and attempting to set up back channel communications between U.S. politicians and Russian intelligence.

Butina’s attorney confirmed the authenticity of the emails to ABC News and added that they show his client “taking her opportunities where she finds them.”

The emails also reveal Butina’s role in organizing a December 2015 Moscow summit between Outdoor Channel CEO Jim Liberatore, multiple top NRA figures, former Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke — a Trump campaign surrogate — and at least two Russian officials.

One of the Russian officials present was Alexander Torshin, the head of the Russian Central Bank and close Putin ally. Torshin was sanctioned by the Treasury Department earlier this year.

According to the emails, Butina tried to involve Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the meeting, but it is unclear if he met with any of the guests, though Clarke tweeted a photo in December 2015 with the caption, “Met earlier with Russian Foreign Minister who spoke on Mid East.”

Former NRA president David Keene suggested to Butina in August 2015 the possibility of adding Liberatore to the Moscow trip. Liberatore’s channel was looking to develop the series highlighting Putin’s love of the outdoors.

The network said in a statement to ABC News that Liberatore's involvement in the trip was “purely commercial.”

The network paid her $20,000 over four months, but told ABC News that they terminated the contract after that time because she failed to make progress on connecting the network to Putin.

The emails show that Butina repeatedly tried contacting the Kremlin on behalf of the channel by reaching out to the government’s media relations team.

Butina’s defense attorney says the emails present more proof that she is not “particularly connected and not working for an intelligence agency” and refutes the U.S. government’s charges against her.

Updated at 5:04 p.m.