Publicado: Mier, Setiembre 12, 2018
Global | Por Milagro Delgado

US backtracks on Russian spy claim

US backtracks on Russian spy claim

In a court filing late Friday, prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Washington, D.C., acknowledged that they had been "mistaken" in interpreting what were apparently joking text messages between Butina and a friend who had helped her renew her auto insurance.

The accusation against Butina, that she offered "sex in exchange for a position within a special interest organization", has been disputed by her lawyer. They also assert other materials and communications investigators uncovered throw doubt on Butina's claim that she should be freed on bond because she has US ties in her longtime relationship with Paul Erickson, a South Dakota-based Republican consultant she met in Moscow in 2013 and with whom she has been romantically linked.

Butina is being held without bail in Alexandria, Virginia, outside of Washington awaiting trial on charges of acting as an unregistered agent for the Russian government. His filing said the allegation had been featured prominently in news coverage around the world including on television in Siberia, where Butina's parents live.

The case is being handled by the US attorney for the District of Columbia and not by special counsel Robert Mueller, who has been leading an investigation into possible coordination between Russia and Donald Trump's Republican presidential campaign as well as Russian interference in the 2016 USA election.

Driscoll argued in a filing last month that the allegation was a "sexist smear" that created the false impression Butina used sex as a spy tool.

The judge said she agreed that Driscoll's repeated comments to the news media had "crossed the line". The U.S. does not have an extradition treaty with Russian Federation. Prosecutors largely argued that she posed an "extreme" flight risk and raised the prospect of her being swept out of the country by Russians using their diplomatic immunity to shield her from USA law enforcement.

Prosecutors have said her activities in the USA were being directed by a Russian official, identified by Driscoll as Alexander Torshin.

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The Russian central bank has declined comment on the case.

Butina later said DK could "ask for anything" including "that they hire you".

Prior to being incarcerated, she was also photographed meeting with a known operative for the FSB, the modern descendant of the Soviet KGB, and it is suspected that she formed a relationship with GOP activist Paul Erickson in order to gain access to the NRA, though Butina maintains that the relationship with Erickson is based on love, not espionage. They found she had contact information for people suspected of being employed by Russia's Federal Security Services, or FSB, the successor intelligence agency to the KGB. To prove it, they tried to get the judge's permission to show video clips at the start of the hearing, including one Chutkan described as featuring Butina and her boyfriend Paul Erickson, a USA conservative activist, lip-syncing to the "Beauty and the Beast" theme song.

Butina is allegedly in a relationship with an American whom prosecutors call "Person 1".

In this photo taken on Friday, Sept. 7, 2012, Maria Butina walks with Alexander Torshin then a member of the Russian upper house of parliament in Moscow, Russia.

"The actions of the Russian Federation and its officials toward the defendant have confirmed her relationship with, and value to, her own government", prosecutors said in their filing. Accused of working as a foreign agent, Butina faces a hearing Monday, Sept. 10 in Washington.

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