WASHINGTON – Federal prosecutors said Russian agent Maria Butina attempted to become a conduit between the Kremlin and the newly elected Trump administration, providing a Russian official with the name of a potential secretary of state nominee.
The new detail is mentioned twice within a government sentencing memo for Butina, yet prosecutors did not provide the specific name of the possible nominee.
On Nov. 11, 2016, “the defendant provided the Russian Official with the name of an individual she claimed was being considered for Secretary of State,” prosecutors wrote.
“She asked the Russian Official to seek the input of the Russian government on the name she provided and told him, ‘our opinion will be taken into consideration’ in the United States.”
The veracity of the information Butina conveyed was not evaluated or assessed in the sentencing memo.
Prosecutors included the previously undisclosed detail after Butina pleaded guilty to one charge of conspiracy to act as a Russian agent without registering with the Justice Department.
Butina’s sentencing scheduled for Friday may be delayed, after her defense attorney said he would need more time to rebut a retired FBI official who is now prepared to testify for the government.
Robert Anderson, Jr., former assistant director of the FBI counterintelligence division, wrote Butina was likely part of a Russian “spot-and-assess” operation.
Those specific operations seek to identify individuals who could be recruited as intelligence sources for adversaries in the near future.
“Butina focused specifically on Americans with political influence and Americans who had access, or were expected to acquire access, to the incoming presidential administration” Anderson wrote in tandem with Butina’s sentencing memo.
“In my expert opinion, Butina provided the Russian Federation with information that skilled intelligence officers can exploit for years and that may cause significant damage to the United States.”
Butina’s attorney filed a motion to strike Anderson’s declaration. Prosecutors are now asking for a prison term of 18 months.