Maria Butina’s legal team is going back to school. One attorney for the accused Russian agent, Alfred Carry, signed off on a subpoena sent to American University earlier this month demanding documents related to her time studying there.
The subpoena, reviewed by The Daily Beast, demands “[a] copy of each class roster (and photo roster, if one) for each of Maria Butina’s courses at American University.”
The move has generated some tension on campus, and is poised to rope one of Washington’s most influential institutions of higher education into a hot-button criminal case. One student who viewed the subpoena—and requested anonymity out of concern about retaliation—called it an invasion of privacy.
“This is insane, none of us have anything to do with this nonsense,” the student told The Daily Beast. “Looks like it’s Maria’s lawyers who are on a witch hunt of their own.”
Butina’s lawyer declined to comment for this story. The American University general counsel’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Butina took graduate school classes at American University while living in the United States. During her time there, students became aware that she had struck up a romantic relationship with Paul Erickson, a long-time Republican insider with close ties to the gun rights community. And according to one of her professors at the school, she claimed in class to have facilitated communications between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and the Kremlin.
“She said so in my class. And she said so several times in the last semester,” Svetlana Savranskaya, Butina’s former American University professor, told The Daily Beast for a story published in February of 2017. “She is a former journalist, so she keeps up her connections in Russia. And she also works and [claims to] keep connections with a member of the Russian Duma.”
In July, Butina was charged with acting as an agent for the Russian government without registering with the Justice Department. She was initially held in jail in Washington D.C. and then moved to jail in Alexandria, Va., where she is currently being held.
Prosecutors allege that Butina cultivated relationships in the American conservative movement—and particularly among gun rights activists—as part of a Kremlin influence operation. Butina has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
She has lived in the United States for years, and during that time built relationships with conservative power brokers. She socialized with J.D. Gordon, who advised the Trump campaign on foreign policy, and appeared at the Center for the National Interest—the think tank which hosted a major Trump foreign policy speech—with her associate, Russian Central Bank official Alexander Torshin. She and Torshin later exchanged Twitter direct messages, first reported by The Daily Beast, detailing his discomfort with the behavior of the chief of that think tank.