Russian national Maria Butina has been charged by criminal complaint with conspiring to act as a Russian agent without prior notification to the Attorney General and with having furthered the conspiracy by a few otherwise innocuous acts. The case is prosecuted by the Department of Justice and the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia. Yesterday I noted the case, quoted the complaint regarding the overt acts manifesting the conspiracy and posted the affidavit of FBI Special Agent Kevin Helson that laid out the story.
Send in the clowns. The case has excited the media with thoughts that the cops are closing in on President Trump.
I thought the case would be good for a day’s headlines, the prosecutors stretched it to two with allegations that they made against Butina at a pretrial detention hearing. Successfully portraying Butina as a flight risk, the government opposed bail and Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson denied it. The government’s memorandum supporting pretrial detention is posted here together with Helson’s affidavit. I have embedded the government’s memo with the attached affidavit below.
The New York Times story appears here under a headline highlighting the salacious sexual component of the government’s argument. (The headline highlights this sentence: “Apparently hoping for a work visa that would grant her a longer stay, she offered one American sex in exchange for a job.”) As I read the government’s memo under the heading “Additional Information Supporting Detention,” pages 3-9 include unsworn allegations that go beyond the FBI affidavit. The government’s allegation of Butina’s offer of sex in exchange for a job appears at page 8 in this part of the memo.
The substantive criminal statute that Butina is charged with violating is 18 U.S.C. 951(a): “Whoever, other than a diplomatic or consular officer or attaché, acts in the United States as an agent of a foreign government without prior notification to the Attorney General if required in subsection (b) [rules and regulations establishing requirements for notification], shall be fined under this title  or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.” The statute is separate and apart from the Foreign Agents Registration Act the requirements of which Paul Manafort is charged with violating. The Times notes in paragraph 8 of its story that Butina “has not been charged with espionage.”
Eric Felten provides a good guide to the case in the Weekly Standard article “Behind the indictment of Maria Butina.” I thought that interested readers might want to take a look at the primary documents with their own eyes to get some idea of what is happening here and what isn’t.