Senate votes to release transcript of suspected Russian spy
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate is giving the FBI access to a transcript of a Senate Intelligence Committee interview with Maria Butina, a gun-rights activist suspected of being a covert Russian agent.
The 29-year-old Butina was arrested last month and is awaiting trial on charges of conspiracy and acting as an unregistered foreign agent for Russia. Prosecutors have accused her of using sex and deception to forge influential connections.
Butina was interviewed by the Senate panel in April as part of its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections. In a voice vote Wednesday, the Senate allowed the committee to provide the transcript to the FBI and to Butina’s lawyers.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., and the top Democrat on the committee, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, said in a joint statement that they sought authorization from the full Senate to release the documents in response to requests from the Justice Department and a lawyer for Butina and will release it if it is not made public.
“The Committee intends to provide the transcript, provided both parties agree to include it under the auspices of a protective order, which we understand is currently under discussion,” the senators said.
Butina was photographed by the FBI dining privately with a Russian diplomat suspected of being an intelligence operative in the weeks before the envoy’s departure from the U.S. last March, prosecutors said. She also had contact information for people who investigators believe were employees of Russia’s Federal Security Services, or FSB, the successor intelligence agency to the KGB.
The Justice Department says she worked covertly to establish back-channel lines of communication to the Kremlin and infiltrate U.S. political organizations, including the National Rifle Association, and gather intelligence for a senior Russian official to whom she reported.
Butina has pleaded not guilty. Her lawyer Robert Driscoll said she isn’t a Russian agent but instead a “young student seeking to make her way in America.”