Prosecutors say they need further cooperation from alleged Russian agent Maria Butina

Prosecutors say they need further cooperation from alleged Russian agent Maria Butina
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The government says it is not yet ready to set a sentencing date for Maria Butina, who was charged last year with acting as a Russian agent to infiltrate Republican groups and influence American politics.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Erik Kenerson told federal District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan that the government still needs Butina’s cooperation in ongoing investigations.

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Butina has been working with prosecutors since December as part of deal in which she pleaded guilty to conspiring with a Russian government official and an American — later identified as her boyfriend Paul Erickson — to infiltrate Republican political groups like the National Rifle Association and use those connections to influence American politics.

The conspiracy charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

Butina’s attorney Robert Driscroll said he understands the government might have other matters that require Butina’s further cooperation, but that the defense is ready to go.

Chutkan called the parties to the bench for a sealed discussion, which Butina listened to via headphones from the defense table in court.

In open court, Chutkan said she understands Driscoll’s concern that Butina has already been detained for a substantial part of whatever sentence she may ultimately be given, but noted that Butina has agreed to work with the government and her continued cooperation is needed.

Chutkan, an Obama appointee, then ordered the parties to return to court at 10 a.m. on March 28 to set sentencing, but told Kenerson to alert Driscoll if the government can convert that status conference to a sentencing hearing.

The charges against Butina were brought by the U.S. attorney's office in the District of Columbia, not special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerMueller report fades from political conversation Trump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony MORE, who is investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign and possible collusion with President TrumpDonald John TrumpGraham: America must 'accept the pain that comes in standing up to China' Weld 'thrilled' more Republicans are challenging Trump New data challenges Trump's economic narrative MORE campaign.

But Butina’s case is significant because she’s the first Russian to be convicted of lying to influence American politics before the election.

Erickson, a GOP political operative, was indicted earlier this month on charges of wire fraud and money laundering. Prosecutors say he unlawfully devised a scheme to defraud investors and personally enrich himself for more than two decades.