Confessed Russian spy Maria Butina may be preparing to testify in an upcoming criminal trial, according to sealed court papers briefly made public on Friday. Reportedly she is now needed to testify or provide information in another case.
U.S. prosecutors on Friday asked a federal judge for permission to move Butina to and from jail for ongoing interviews, including potentially to testify before a grand jury, in a filing intended to be sealed that appeared on the public docket for her case. The prosecutors in Washington, DC filed a motion to file under seal, asking for authorization for to transport Butina in secrecy so that she could testify in an unspecified “pending criminal investigation.”
The Washington Post’s Spencer Hsu first discovered and published a portion of the document on Twitter.
“NEW U.S. prosecutors on Friday asked a federal judge for permission to move Maria Butina from jail, including potentially to testify before a grand jury, in a sealed filing apparently made public by mistake.”
NEW U.S. prosecutors on Friday asked a federal judge for permission to move Maria Butina from jail, including potentially to testify before a grand jury, in a sealed filing apparently made public by mistake. pic.twitter.com/SvbnW3fn3i
— Spencer Hsu (@hsu_spencer) December 14, 2018
Butina’s attorneys have not commented on these latest reports.
Butina pleaded guilty this week to acting as a foreign agent for Russia and attempting to use her access to conservative groups to build a secret backchannel between the Kremlin and the Trump administration. As part of her plea deal, Butina agreed to cooperate“in any and all to matters as to which the Government deems this cooperation relevant.”
The Justice Department has not said what they might ask Butina to cooperate with but her boyfriend, conservative activist Paul Erickson, reportedly received a target letter from federal prosecutors informing him that he may also be prosecuted for acting as an unregistered foreign agent of Russia.
The motion Friday requested secrecy because its release “would pose a risk to the defendant’s safety and the safety of the community” and could be used by those who would “seek to harm or intimidate the defendant.”
Prosecutors have noted the Russian government’s strong interest in Butina’s case. In court papers filed in September, the Justice Department reported the half dozen visits Russian diplomats made to Butina. They have asserted that these visits clearly demonstrate Butina’s “association with and value to the Russian government.”
There has been much speculation concerning the content and nature of the testimony that Butina has promised to provide to federal prosecutors. Much of the speculation concerns her detailed knowledge of the interactions — and the money flow — between Russia, the NRA, and Republican politicians.
This new information will only add to the intrigue. If Butina has been called to provide testimony in another (yet unknown) criminal trial, it may mean that indictments will soon be issued to the NRA officials she dealt with, or to some well-known Republicans with whom she had extended and intimate contact. To use a time-honored, but very appropriate phrase: the plot thickens.