- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 25, 2019

Maria Butina, a Russian woman scheduled to be sentenced this week for conspiring to act as an unregistered foreign agent, failed Thursday in her fight to fend off claims made by a former FBI official who suggested she may have been used by Moscow to recruit Americans for spying.

Ruling on the eve of Butina’s sentencing hearing in D.C., U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan denied a motion sought by defense lawyers to strike the testimony of Robert Anderson, a former assistant director for the FBI’s counterintelligence division who recently submitted a declaration in the case on behalf of the Department of Justice.

“The court ‘may appropriately conduct an inquiry broad in scope, largely unlimited either as to the kind of information [the court] may consider, or the source from which it may come’,” the judge quoted from case law.

Robert N. Driscoll, Butina’s lead defense lawyer, did not immediately return a request for comment.

Butina, a 31-year-old former American University student, has been in custody since her arrest in D.C. last July when she was initially charged with acting as an unregistered agent of the Russian government. She eventually pleaded guilty to a single related count of conspiracy and is slated to learn her fate Friday in federal court.



Mr. Driscoll has requested that his client be sentenced to time served, but prosecutors have asked the court to impose a punishment of 18 months behind bars.

In a declaration entered April 19, Mr. Anderson testified that Butina’s conduct resembled a classic “spot-and-assess” operation used by intelligence agencies to find potential spies susceptible to recruitment and that he believed she was “part of a deliberate intelligence operation by the Russian Federation.”

“In my expert opinion, Butina provided the Russian Federation with information that skilled intelligence officers can exploit for years and that may cause significant damage to the United States,” Mr. Anderson wrote.

Mr. Driscoll responded on April 21 by asking the court to exclude the declaration in a motion that called it “rife with speculation, circular logic and bereft of any factual support.”

“Simply put, the government and Anderson have not offered any reliable information or specific evidence to support the testimonial conclusions and declaration,” argued Mr. Driscoll.

Prosecutors responded on Tuesday this week by calling the defense’s objections “unavailing” but added that they were willing to put off sentencing while Butina’s lawyers drafted a response.

“The defense did not request additional time to prepare a rebuttal to Mr. Anderson’s Declaration, despite the court’s willingness to adjourn sentencing in order for it to do so. Therefore, the Sentencing Hearing will not be adjourned,” Judge Chutkan ultimately ruled Thursday.

Friday’s sentencing is scheduled for 10 a.m.

Butina is accused of infiltrating the National Rifle Association to forge ties between Republicans and Russia.

Moscow has denied deploying Butina to spy and has referred to her as a political prisoner.

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