Senate investigating alleged spy Maria Butina over meetings with US government officials: report
Maria Butina, who has been indicted on charges of being a Russian agent. (Pavel Starikov/Flickr)

The Senate Finance Committee has launched an investigation into Russian spy Maria Butina's conversations with U.S. officials — and the conservative think tank that set the meetings up.

NPR reported Friday that the Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR) sent letters to the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve for information about meetings Butina had with officials from those departments.

In 2015, the report noted, Butina and her alleged Russian government handler Alexander Torshin met with then-Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer and the Treasury Department Undersecretary for International Affairs.

The committee also sent a letter to Dimitri Simes, the CEO of the Center for the National Interest group that arranged the admitted Russian spy's meetings with the American government officials.

Freedom of Information Act requests submitted by NPR revealed that Paul Saunders, who was in 2015 the executive director of the think tank founded by Richard Nixon and honorarily directed by Henry Kissinger, emailed the Federal Reserve to orchestrate the meetings.

"I am writing to request an appointment for Mr. Alexander Torshin," Saunders wrote in the March 2015 email. "Mr. Torshin is in the United States on a private visit... he would like to discuss U.S.-Russia relations and international economic issues and can also share his perspective on Russia's financial situation and its impact on Russian politics."

NPR also learned in its FOIA request that Butina and Torshin's "meetings with senior officials were an offshoot of their primary trip purpose: to attend the yearly NRA conference."

In their letters sent on Friday, the Senators also tipped their hand on Congress' multiple investigations into Russia, the report noted.

"A critical issue facing the Committee and the country is the extent to which the Russian government engaged in efforts designed to undermine our political system and governmental policy through obfuscation and manipulation," Grassley and Wyden's joint letter read.