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Alleged Russian operative Mariia Butina negotiating with prosecutors

A document filed in federal court indicates prosecutors and Butina's lawyers are working towards a plea agreement.
Maria Butina, leader of a pro-gun organization in Russia, speaks to a crowd during a rally in support of legalizing the possession of handguns in Moscow, Russia in 2013.AP file
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By Tom Winter

Lawyers for alleged Russian operative Mariia Butina have entered into negotiations with federal prosecutors, according to a document filed in federal court Friday.

The two sides requested to postpone the next hearing in the case because they are currently "in negotiations regarding a potential resolution of this matter," indicating that they are working towards a plea agreement.

Butina is accused of acting as an agent of Russia in the D.C. area and faces charges of conspiracy and failing to register as a foreign agent.

She was arrested and charged in July for allegedly conspiring with her ex-boss to infiltrate politically powerful U.S. organizations, including the NRA, and push Moscow's agenda.

Butina came to the U.S. in August 2016 on a student visa. Previously, she served as a special assistant to a Kremlin crony whose description in court papers matches that of Alexander Torshin, a former Russian senator and deputy head of Russia's central bank who is close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Torshin was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in April 2018 along with several other Russian oligarchs and has been accused of links to organized crime, as NBC News previously reported.

In a statement issued by her lawyer, Robert Driscoll, after her arrest, Butina denied being a Russian agent. Driscoll called her an "A" student at American University who has been "cooperating with various government entities for months regarding public allegations related to her contacts with various American and Russian individuals."

He said she testified behind closed doors before the Senate Committee on Intelligence and offered to speak to special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Butina was charged by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Washington, D.C., unconnected to Mueller's investigation.

The Russian Government has strenuously denied that Butina has any ties to official government conduct.

In the court filing, U.S. prosecutors requested that the court extend the current phase of the case, called a status conference, an additional two weeks, to give both sides time to continue the negotiations.

Tom Winter

Tom Winter is a producer and reporter for the NBC News Investigative Unit based in New York, covering crime, courts, terrorism, and financial fraud on the East Coast.

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