A new court filing reveals that Russian national and purported lifetime NRA member Maria Butina is “poised to plead guilty” in a case involving accusations of “conspiracy to act as an agent of the Russian Federation within the United States without prior notification to the attorney general” and acting as a foreign agent.
In a two-page request for a “change of plea” hearing, Butina’s attorneys and prosecutors said they are available for a hearing as soon as tomorrow, adding “The parties have resolved this matter, and the Defendant Mariia Butina remains in custody.”
To date, the NRA has not publicly commented on the arrest or indictment of Maria Butina, who is believed to have used the NRA and other conservative groups to gain access to prominent Republican figures.
Butina had previously pleaded not guilty. As the Washington Post reports, “A plea is not final until it is entered in court and accepted by a judge. Monday’s filing did not indicate to what charge she will plead.”
This news comes just five days after The Daily Beast reported that federal investigators are targeting Butina’s boyfriend, NRA-linked GOP political operative Paul Erickson, and considering charging him with acting as an unregistered foreign agent, the same charge pending against Butina. Erickson also faces a potential conspiracy charge.
As has been widely reported, Butina, with the help of Erickson, reached out to the NRA and to Republican political circles on behalf of the Kremlin. Butina attended multiple NRA conventions as a VIP guest, hosted senior NRA officials who made two separate trips to Moscow, became a “fixture” at high-dollar NRA donor events and met with senior officials including NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, and former NRA presidents David Keene, Sandy Froman and Jim Porter. Much more information about Butina is available here and here.
The questions for the NRA remain the same: When will the NRA come clean about its connections to Butina and her allies? And when will it fully answer questions about any role it may have played in the NRA’s record-breaking 2016 electoral activity?
The NRA reported spending a record $55 million on the 2016 elections, including $30 million to support Donald Trump – nearly triple what the group spent during the 2012 presidential race. Most of that money was spent by an arm of the NRA that is not required to disclose its donors, and according to a McClatchy report from January, NRA spending may have actually exceeded $70 million during the 2016 election.