Image: Maria Butina allegedly traded sex for a position within a special interest organisation.
The FBI said it has determined that even though Butina had a personal relationship with someone described in court papers as Person 1 - identified by NPR as political fundraiser Paul Erickson - she "offered an individual other than Person 1 sex in exchange for a position with a special interest organization".
The DOJ charges that from 2015 through at least February 2017 Butina worked at the direction of a high-level official in the Russian government - Alexander Torshin, the state secretary-deputy governor of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation who was sanctioned by the Treasury Department in April - and at times with "an American political operative " (identified as U.S. Person 1) to "jointly arrange introductions to U.S. persons having influence in American politics for the goal of advancing the agenda of the Russian Federation".
The DOJ also said in its filing that Butina and US Person 1 took steps "consistent with a plan to leave" Washington, DC, in the days leading up to her arrest last weekend.
Prior to her arrest, "we have been offering to cooperate with the government the entire time and have been met with silence", Driscoll said. On Tuesday, a federal grand jury indicted her on conspiracy and acting as a foreign agent.
If found guilty, Butina could face a maximum of five years in prison and a £191,000 ($250,000) fine.
Butina's attorney, Robert Driscoll, argued that his client was arrested as she was packing to move to South Dakota, and that she was willing to postpone that move and check in regularly if she were released.
"Ms. Butina is not a proxy for any of the serious and substantial issues that our country has with Russian Federation right now", Driscoll said. He also urged that the case should not be tried in the context of current US-Russian relations.
Trump reversed that stance a day later under heavy attack from USA politicians of both parties. In 2015, a collection of NRA officials flew over to Russian Federation to attend Butina's annual gun conference, the Right to Bear Arms, details of which were included in a report from Democrats on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence made public on March 26.
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Butina, who founded a pro-gun Russian advocacy group called Right to Bear Arms, has not been charged with espionage or with being a member of a Russian intelligence service.
Pictures of her meeting prominent Republican governors and congressman, and the powerful leaders of the NRA, are splashed across her social media accounts. Butina's next court appearance was scheduled for July 24.
"I believe I would get along very nicely with Putin". "I don't think you'd need the sanctions".
Per the indictment, Butina allegedly lied on the F-1 student visa application that allowed her to come to the US for graduate school in 2016.
Hardly masking her networking efforts, she told colleagues at the school that she had a almost direct line to Putin. Erickson is a close friend and business partner of Butina's who counseled her on securing meetings with other high-level officials in conservative politics, according to the affidavit and previous reporting by The Daily Beast and Rolling Stone.
The Butina case was not brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 United States presidential election.
But the two investigations clearly overlapped, and Butina has already been interviewed by the Senate committee studying Russian meddling.
The charges against Butina were made public just hours after President Donald Trump appeared to accept assurances from Russian President Vladimir Putin that his country did not try to influence the 2016 election. By August 2016, when she moved to the USA on a student visa, the Federal Bureau of Investigation was watching, reports The Washington Post.
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