A Russian woman who tried to broker a secret meeting between Donald J. Trump and the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, during the 2016 presidential campaign was charged Monday and accused of working with Americans to carry out a secret Russian effort to influence American politics.
At the behest of a senior Russian government official, the woman, Mariia Butina, made connections through the National Rifle Association, religious organizations and the National Prayer Breakfast to try to steer the Republican Party toward more pro-Russia policies, court records show. Privately comparing herself to a Soviet Cold War propagandist, she worked to infiltrate American organizations and establish “back channel” lines of communication with American politicians.
“These lines could be used by the Russian Federation to penetrate the U.S. national decision-making apparatus to advance the agenda of the Russian Federation,” an F.B.I. agent wrote in court documents.
The charges were filed under seal on Saturday, the day after 12 Russian intelligence officers were indicted on a charge of hacking Democratic computers during the 2016 campaign. Ms. Butina, 29, was arrested Sunday and appeared Monday in court. The records were unsealed hours after Mr. Trump stood beside Mr. Putin in Helsinki and said that he saw no reason the Russian leader would try to influence the presidential election. [Continue reading…]