A woman accused of acting as a Russian agent to penetrate the strong National Rifle Association lobby group and impact U.S. policy toward Moscow is expected to plead guilty in federal court on Thursday in a deal that could help prosecutors gain insight into Russian efforts to interfere in American politics.
Maria Butina, a Russian former graduate student at American University in Washington who has publicly advocated for gun rights, is planned to change her plea from not guilty to guilty in a hearing before Judge Tanya Chutkan in U.S. District Court in Washington. Butina was charged in July with acting as an agent of Russia’s government and plot to take actions on behalf of Moscow.
As part of the plea agreement, she is expected to comply with prosecutors during current investigation, according to U.S. media reports. The hearing, which the judge had delayed by a day, is set to begin at 10:30 a.m. EST.
Prosecutors have accused Butina, who was jailed waiting for trial, of working with a Russian official and two U.S. citizens to try to penetrate the NRA, a group tightly arranged with Republican politicians along President Donald Trump, and control Washington’s policy toward Moscow.
Moscow has tagged the case against Butina “fabricated” and called for her release.
The prosecutors in the Butina case are not from the office of Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russia’s role in the 2016 U.S. election and whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Moscow to help him win.
The prosecution’s complaint against Butina did not expressly mention Trump’s campaign. Reuters earlier reported that Butina was a Trump supporter who boasted at Washington parties that she could use her political influence to help people get jobs in his administration.
Trump has denied any collusion with Moscow. Russia has denied meddling in American politics.