On Sunday, the federal government arrested Russian national Maria Butina. The indictment against her, published Monday, accused her of conspiring to establish backchannels with top US lawmakers by way of the National Rifle Association.
On Tuesday, security experts were still trying to make sense of the charges against Butina.
Tuesday’s episode of CNN’s Live with Erin Burnett, reporter Julia Ioffe talked about her suspicious run-ins with the alleged Russia spy.
“What’s interesting though about Butina is not so much what she was doing here. It’s that she was constantly relaying it back to Alexander Torshin back in Russia,” Ioffe pointed out. Torshin is one of the Russians named in a federal indictment accusing Russia of election meddling. “And he is a really important figure.”
“He headed the Central Bank, he was a Russian Senator,” Ioffe said. “But more importantly he was named by Spanish law enforcement as being very of heading up an organized criminal group that was laundering Russian money in Spain.”
Ioffe notes her run-ins with Butina over the years—how she seemed a little too good at shooting her gun for an amateur gun enthusiast.
“It’s crazy, but in retrospect, a) she seemed very well trained when we did these shooting exercises. It wasn’t target practice. It was scurrying around, almost like a movie set and shooting out of screen doors and from around corners,” Ioffe points out. “And she hit everything on target, super fast.”
“Also what’s interesting is that back then it was the NRA, it was American right-wing organizations that were trying to influence things in Russia, not the other way around.”