Accused Russian spy Maria Butina had far more significant contacts in Washington than previously known - having taken part in April, 2015 meetings between a visiting Russian official and two senior officials at the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve, according to Reuters which sites people familiar with the meetings, as well as a report from a Washington think tank that arranged them.
The two officials were Stanley Fischer, Fed vice chairman at the time, and Nathan Sheets, who was then-Treasury undersecretary for international affairs.
Fischer, and Israeli-American economist, served as governor of the Bank of Israel from 2005 - 2013 before President Obama nominated him to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors in January, 2014. He resigned in late October for personal reasons.
Sheets, head of Global Macro at Prudential, was formerly the Global Head of International Economics at Citigroup after having spent for 18 years at the Federal Reserve. He was nominated by Obama for his Treasury position in February, 2014.
In April, 2015, Fischer and Sheets met with Butina and Alexander Torshin - then the Russian Central Bank deputy governor, where they participated in separate meetings with Fischer and Sheets to discuss US-Russian economic relations during President Obama's administration.
Fischer, an in email to Reuters, confirmed he met with Torshin and his interpreter. While he could not recall details, Fischer said the conversation involved “the state of the Russian economy” and Torshin’s new role as deputy central bank governor.
“I recall Mr. Torshin mentioning, as an aside, that he planned to attend a meeting of the National Rifle Association, a fact that I considered irrelevant to our conversation,” Fischer wrote to Reuters. -Reuters
As a related aside, the recently immune Tony Podesta was paid $170,000 over a 6-month period ending September 2016 to lobby against sanctions handed down by the Obama administration over the 2014 annexation of Crimea, a relationship SunTrust bank would sever ties with Podesta over.
The meetings between Butina and the Obama-era officials were documented by the Center for the National Interest in a report seen by Reuters, which outlined its Russia-related activites between 2013 and 2015. It describes the meetings as helping bring together "leading figures from the financial institutions of the United States and Russia."
Butina, 29, was jailed on Wednesday without bail until she stands trial after Department of Justice argued that she has ties to Russian intelligence and is a flight risk. She has pleaded not guilty to charges that she acted as a foreign agent for Russia.
"Advance the interests"
The top Russian official mentioned in Butina's indictment matches Torshin, who she traveled with to attend the meetings and serve as his interpreter at various D.C. events. Torshin and Butina are said to have conspired to "advance the interests of the Russian Federation."
The Treasury Department in April imposed sanctions on Torshin and a number of other Russian businessmen and government officials in Putin’s inner circle.
The think tank hosted Trump at an event at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington in April 2016 also attended by Sergei Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to Washington at the time. Two months earlier, the group’s Russian-born CEO, Dimitri Simes, traveled to Moscow, where he met with Putin and other Russian officials, the organization’s records showed.
The April visit came about a year after Obama’s administration imposed sanctions on Russia for its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region. -Reuters
Butina is accused of trying to infiltrate the NRA, while also trying to arrange meetings between then-candidate Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to the DOJ filing. She and Torshin are also accused of participating in a private "off the record" discussion at the Center for the National Interest concerning the “Russian financial situation and its impact on Russian politics,” according to people familiar with the meeting and the think tank’s report - an event moderated by former AIG CEO Maurice "Hank" Greenberg.
Among the think tank’s board members is David Keene, a former NRA president and former chairman of the American Conservative Union. Keene has previously been photographed alongside Butina at events.
Paul Saunders, the think tank’s executive director, said Torshin spoke at an April 2015 event about the Russian banking system and Butina attended. Saunders said people at the organization cannot recall details of Torshin’s presentation. -Reuters
“We were unaware of any charges or suspicions of illegal or inappropriate conduct or of any connections to Russian intelligence services,” Saunders said in an email.
According to the charges, investigators found a handwritten note in her apartment that included details about a job offer from the FSB, and allegations that she was in contact with senior Russian intelligence officials.
- HANDWRITTEN NOTES UNCOVERED BY FBI IN BUTINA'S APARTMENT ASKED 'HOW TO RESPOND TO FSB OFFER OF EMPLOYMENT?'
Because, apparently unlike every other spy agency in the world, the GRU is the only one known to recruit idiots and to advise its agent to specifically leave incriminating evidence in handwritten notes behind so it can be conveniently discovered by, well, anyone.
Perhaps unsurprisingly given the immense resources at her disposal, Butina has been considered "an extreme flight risk" and prosecutors have asked the judge that she be held through trial.
To help facilitate her cover, Butina had a "personal relationship" with an unnamed 56-year-old American citizen with whom she lived. The individual was identified only as "Person 1".
The government's argument to keep Maria Butina in pretrial detention includes this section. pic.twitter.com/zPBD3fD54Z— southpaw (@nycsouthpaw) July 18, 2018
And despite this, Butina also offered sex to an unnamed official in a "special interest organization" that she wished to join. The filing also alleges that Alexander Torshin, a Russian who has had personal contact with members of the Trump family, was Butina's boss.
Reports of her arrest were initially met with incredulity and confusion while the press largely continued to focus on President Trump's performance at the Helsinki summit. But this new information is extremely titillating.
And now, we know that Butina operated at much higher levels within D.C. than previously known.