NRA-Linked Russian Gun Advocate Charged With Spying on U.S.

Maria Butina, a National Rifle Association-linked Russian gun advocate residing in the U.S., was arrested and charged Monday with “work[ing] at the direction of a high-level official in the Russian government,” according to a Justice Department press release. The DOJ alleges Butina acted “as an agent of Russia... by developing relationships with U.S. persons and infiltrating organizations having influence in American politics, for the purpose of advancing the interests of the Russian Federation.” Other outlets, like The New Republic, profiled Butina’s pro-gun crusade in Russia and her relationship with former Russian central banker and politician Alexander Torshin as early as 2012. But The Daily Beast was the first to report on Butina’s private claims to have worked on behalf of the Russian government to build a backchannel between Moscow and the Trump campaign. Butina and Torshin are both lifetime members of the NRA, and she also attended the annual NRA Women’s Leadership Luncheon in 2014. The Justice Department noted that Butina’s connection to an individual working at the Russian Central Bank and sanctioned in April 2018 went on from as early as 2015 to February 2017. Torshin was sanctioned by the Treasury Department in April of this year.