Maria Butina was granted a special travel visa to enter the United States in 2015 by John Kerry’s state department with likely help from the then-U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, according to FBI officials.
Butina was already on a federal watchlist, FBI insiders said, which means Holder’s Justice Department — and likely Holder himself — would have had to green light Butina’s visa from Russia for entry into the United States.
Holder resigned as attorney general two weeks after Butina met with high-ranking Obama officials in Washington D.C. Butina met with Obama officials in the Treasury and Federal Reserve.
FBI officials said Butina was given special entry into the U.S. by Kerry’s State Dept. because the timeline of her visa was “certainly expedited,” per intelligence the agent would not disclose.
Now Butina sits in prison, accused of spying for Russia and alleged conspiracy to “infiltrate organizations active in U.S. politics in an effort to advance the interests of the Russian Federation.”.
This from Reuters:
Maria Butina, accused in the United States of spying for Russia, had wider high-level contacts in Washington than previously known, taking part in 2015 meetings between a visiting Russian official and two senior U.S. officials.
The meetings, disclosed by several people familiar with the sessions and a report prepared by a Washington think tank that arranged them, involved Stanley Fischer, then Federal Reserve vice chairman, and Nathan Sheets, then Treasury undersecretary for international affairs.
Butina traveled to the United States in April 2015 with Alexander Torshin, then the Russian Central Bank deputy governor, and they took part in separate meetings with Fischer and Sheets to discuss U.S.-Russian economic relations during Democratic former President Barack Obama’s administration.
The two meetings, which have not been previously reported, reveal a wider circle of high-powered connections that Butina sought with American political leaders and special interest groups.
The meetings with Fischer and Sheets were arranged by the Center for the National Interest, a Washington foreign policy think tank that is supportive of efforts to improve U.S.-Russia relations. Paul Saunders, its executive director, in December 2016 urged then President-elect Donald Trump to ease tensions with Russia.
According to the Justice Department’s indictment, federal agents confiscated Butina’s laptop and iPhone, allegedly containing Twitter direct messages that showed coordination with an unnamed Russian official.
One FBI source said those assertions were “ridiculous.”
“A spy using Twitter DMs to transmit secrets?” the agent said. “It’s like a bad movie.”