Report: Alleged Russian Agent Maria Butina Was Under FBI Watch Since 2016

Maria Butina, the NRA-linked Russian national who was recently indicted for allegedly acting as a Russian agent in the U.S., was subject to FBI monitoring since she arrived in the United States on a student visa in 2016, according to The Washington Post. Shortly after the bureau began tracking her, Butina allegedly “tried to arrange a meeting between [Trump] and a senior Russian government official” at the 2017 National Prayer Breakfast. She also attempted to rub elbows with other groups, asking a civil rights group about “cyber-vulnerabilities” in what she said was research for a graduate “school project.” Officials decided to arrest her when they heard she was planning on leaving Washington for South Dakota—where GOP figure and her known associate Paul Erickson is reportedly based and where it would be more difficult to monitor her. Butina’s lawyer told the newspaper that she was just a student with an “interest in politics and a desire to network with Americans.” She was indicted by a grand jury on Tuesday for failing to register as a foreign agent and for working with an unnamed American in order to advance “the interests of the Russian Federation.”