A Kremlin secret agent and a high-ranking Russian banker met with senior officials from the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve, according to newly revealed documents.
Alexander Torshin, then a Russian central banker, and his protégée Maria Butina took meeting with senior officials at both agencies in 2015 and sought a meeting with the Fed chair at that time, reported NPR.
Torshin has since been sanctioned by the Treasury Department and was barred from the U.S., and Butina has pleaded guilty to conspiring to serve as a Russian agent and has been sentenced to 18 months in prison.
Butina told NPR her meeting with government officials, politicians and the National Rifle Association were "civil diplomacy" intended to improve relations between the U.S. and Russia, and she and Torshin used their enthusiasm for gun rights to gain access to the higher echelons of the American capital.
The meetings have been known, but internal documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act offer new details about the meetings and how they were set up.
Paul Saunders, who headed the think tank Center for the National Interest at the time, helped organize the meetings to learn more about the status of Russia's financial system a year into sanctions imposed after the annexation of Crimea.
Torshin and Butina met in April 2015 with Nathan Sheets, then the Treasury undersecretary for international affairs, after Treasury aide Erik Woodhouse consulted with the National Security Council and Treasury's Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence and found no red flags about the pair.
The newly revealed documents show Torshin was more interested in pushing his enthusiasm for guns and denying Russian involvement in shooting down a Malaysia Airlines jetliner, which baffled Treasury officials.
Saunders tried to set up a meeting with Torshin and then-Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen, whose office passed on the request and suggested the Russian banker meet with vice chairman Stanley Fischer.
Torshin and Fischer met in April 2015, while the Russian banker was in the U.S. to attend the annual meeting for the NRA, of which he was a lifetime member.
The Russian pair discussed their membership in the gun manufacturers lobbying group, but they also discussed economic issues such as Russian credit and inflation.