Suspected Russian agent Maria Butina prepared to plead guilty

Updated

Between the latest court filing on Michael Flynn, the latest guilty plea from Michael Cohen, George Papadopoulos’ release from prison, the latest filings from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team, and prosecutors directly implicating Donald Trump in a felony, you might be tempted to think there wouldn’t be any surprising court developments for a while.

The Rachel Maddow Show, 12/5/18, 9:08 PM ET

Movement in Butina case eyed for potential Trump-Russia news

Rachel Maddow reports on new developments in the case of accused Russian spy Maria Butina, including attention on her boyfriend, Republican consultant Paul Erickson, that could portend news regarding Russia’s efforts to influence American politics,
But you’d be wrong. Rachel noted on the show on Thursday that it looked like the Maria Butina case was heading towards some sort of resolution fairly soon, and as NBC News reported this morning, that resolution has apparently arrived.

Alleged Russian agent Maria Butina is likely to plead guilty as soon as this week, according to court papers filed Monday.

Lawyers for Butina and the Justice Department say in the court filing that her criminal case has been “resolved.” […]

Butina, 30, is accused of acting as an agent of Russia in the Washington, D.C. area and faces charges of conspiracy and failing to register as a foreign agent.

There are some key elements of this story that are not yet clear, including whether Butina has struck some kind of deal with prosecutors in exchange for a guilty plea. That should come into focus in the next few days.

That said, if the suspected Russian secret agent is prepared to start cooperating with the Justice Department, it’s a safe bet Butina would have some interesting insights to share.

As those who watch the show regularly probably know, in 2015, Butina was the first person to get then-candidate Donald Trump to talk on the record about U.S. sanctions against Russia – and the fact that he wanted them dropped.

In the months that followed, Butina allegedly continued with a series of efforts to work her way into the American conservative movement, with a specific focus on establishing connections with the NRA. If the far-right gun group was used as some kind of conduit for Russian interference, a plea agreement between Butina and federal prosecutors could bring some much-needed sunlight to the lingering controversy.

That said, there are multiple possibilities here. Maybe Butina will simply stop contesting the charges, plead guilty, and await sentencing. Maybe she’ll become a cooperating witness. Maybe she’ll be part of some kind of “spy swap” with Moscow.

At this point, we can’t say with certainty, but the fact that the case has been “resolved” according to a new court filing suggests some potentially important developments are poised to unfold.

I wonder who’s the most nervous about what Maria Butina is going to say next. The Kremlin? The NRA? Alexander Torshin?

NRA and Russia

Suspected Russian agent Maria Butina prepared to plead guilty

Updated