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Accused Russian agent Maria Butina pleads guilty to coordinating with Russians — and will cooperate with prosecutors

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Accused Russian agent Maria Butina appeared poised this week to plead guilty in the case, after her lawyers and prosecutors filed a joint motion asking a federal judge on Monday to schedule a change of plea hearing this week.

The filing comes after Butina’s attorney and prosecutors revealed last month they were actively in talks to settle the case.

Butina had previously pleaded not guilty to charges that she was acting as an agent of the Russian government and conspiring to take actions on Russia’s behalf.

Specifically, prosecutors have accused the former American University graduate student of working with a Russian official and two U.S. citizens to try to infiltrate the National Rifle Association, a powerful lobby group that has close ties to Republican politicians including President Donald Trump, and influence American foreign policy toward Russia.

Butina’s lawyers previously identified the Russian official with whom she was accused of working as Alexander Torshin, a deputy governor of Russia’s central bank who was hit with U.S. Treasury Department sanctions in April.

They identified one of the two Americans mentioned in the criminal complaint as being Paul Erickson, a conservative U.S. political activist who was dating Butina. Neither Erickson nor Torshin have been accused by prosecutors of wrongdoing.

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Butina has been in jail since her arrest in July.

In the joint motion filed Monday morning, prosecutors and defense lawyers proposed holding a hearing sometime between Tuesday and Thursday of this week.

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Susan Thomas

Report typos and corrections to [email protected].
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Critics lament as 126 House Democrats join forces with GOP to hand Trump ‘terrifying’ mass domestic spying powers

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Privacy advocates and civil liberties defenders are expressing outrage after the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday night voted down a bipartisan amendment designed to end, as one group put it, the U.S. government's "most egregious mass surveillance practices" first revealed by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.

In a final vote of 253-175, it was 126 Democrats who joined with 127 Republicans to vote against an amendment introduced by Rep Justin Amash (R-Mich.) and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) that would have closed loopholes in Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that critics charge has allowed the NSA to abuse warrantless surveillance capabilities and target the emails, text messages, and internet activity of U.S. citizens and residents. See the full roll call here.

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Pilots, including Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger III, tell US Congress more training needed on 737 MAX

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US pilots called Wednesday for enhanced pilot training on the Boeing 737 MAX before the aircraft is returned to service after being grounded worldwide following two deadly crashes.

The pilots -- including Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger III, who famously landed a damaged plane on the Hudson River in New York in 2009 -- pushed back against the aviation giant's assurances that pilots will only need to review the 737 MAX modifications in a computer program.

Daniel Carey, president of the Allied Pilots Association, told a congressional panel he was encouraged by changes Boeing made to a flight system seen as a factor in both the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes that killed 346 people.

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Shelling on American interests threaten Iraq’s fine line between Iran, US

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A nearly week-long barrage of anonymous shelling attacks on American interests across Iraq are intended to signal Iran's long reach and "embarrass" Baghdad amid spiralling US-Iran tensions, observers say.

The incidents were not claimed but largely originated from areas where Shiite-dominated armed groups loyal to Tehran and deeply opposed to Washington have free reign.

Starting Friday, mortars and rockets have rained down on the Al-Balad and Taji bases, the Baghdad military airport, and a military command centre in northern Mosul -- all sites where US troops and army equipment are present.

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