Accused Russian spy Maria Butina wants to change her plea to guilty according to a Monday filing with a DC Court.
Butina, who was arrested in July and remains in custody, is accused of failing to register as a foreign lobbyist undre the Foreign Agents Registration Act, and working with South Dakota Republican Paul Erickson as a Kremlin spy.
Erickson, who has strong ties to both the National Rifle Association and the Russian gun rights community, allegedly attempted to develop a back-channel between the NRA and the Russian government. In May, 2016, Erickson sent an email to Trump campaign adviser Rick Dearborn and Jeff Sessions with the title "Kremlin connection," seeking a meeting between then-candidate Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin at an annual NRA convention.
Butina, meanwhile, allegedly tried to use Erickson to introduce her to influential political figures in order to arrange a meeting between Trump and her boss, Russian central banker Alexander Torshin.
The Trump campaign declined the invitation, however Torshin and Butina did have a brief interaction with Donald Trump Jr. at a dinner.
Butina is accused of trying to cultivate “back-channel” relationships with the Republican Party’s leading presidential candidates and develop close ties to the NRA to provide Russian officials “with the best access to and influence over” the party.
Butina allegedly was assisted by Erickson, who helped introduce her to influential political figures and who sought to organize a meeting between then-candidate Donald Trump and Alexander Torshin, Butina’s colleague and a Russian central banker, at a May 2016 NRA convention. -Washington Post
US prosecutors on in September argued that Butina should remain in jail pending trial, providing additional evidence that Torshin coordinated her activities - claiming that at his direction she drafted language which would persuade the Russian foreign ministry to let him attend the meeting at the NRA event, which she called a "unique opportunity."
As we noted in September, prosecutors have cited Moscow's vehement protests of Butina's detainment in making their case that she is a Russian operative.
Prosecutors also cited Moscow’s vehement protests of her case — including six consular visits to Butina in jail, four diplomatic notes, two personal complaints by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the official Kremlin Twitter account placing Butina’s face as its avatar — in telling the judge they “confirmed her relationship with, and value to, her own government.” -Washington Post
The Russian embassy, meanwhile complained that Butina is being subjected to unwarranted strip searches and denial of proper medical care in an effort to "break her will." Her defense attorney, Robert Driscoll, claims she has suffered health problems in jail and has been denied proper treatment.
Oddly, Butina met with two senior officials at the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve in 2015, 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 Torshin - 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
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."