Photos Show Links Between NRA Leaders and Alleged Russian Spy Maria Butina
The arrest of Butina is the most dramatic development yet in the government’s investigation of the NRA's relationship with Russia.
This story was published in partnership with the Trace.
Maria Butina, a Russian national who launched that country’s version of the National Rifle Association—and hosted American gun rights advocates in Moscow in 2013—was charged on Monday with spying for the Russian government.
Butina has claimed she was involved in communications between Russia and the Trump campaign, a connection senators are now investigating. (Here’s what we know so far about the NRA’s reported role as a channel for Russian overtures to the Trump campaign.)
The Department of Justice has charged Butina, 29, with "developing relationships with US persons and infiltrating organizations having influence in American politics, for the purpose of advancing the interests of the Russian Federation." The NRA was one of the groups with which she successfully cultivated ties. She even visited the NRA’s headquarters in Virginia.
From the timeline of one of her Russian social media accounts:
Here’s Butina posing outside NRA headquarters with the group’s then-president David A. Keene:
The arrest of Butina is the most dramatic development yet in the government’s investigation of the NRA’s relationship with Russia. Here’s what we know about her history with the highest-ranking executives of the gun group:
Butina was first introduced to Keene in 2011, in her role as an aide to the powerful Russian politician Alexander Torshin. Butina posed with Keene when Torshin hosted him in Moscow in 2013:
For Butina, the now-alleged Russian spy, the NRA gathering was a veritable buffet of conservative networking. Here she is with then-Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal…
…and here she is with former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.
The photo of Butina and Jindal appears to have been taken while she attended an event for the NRA’s Golden Ring of Freedom, the gun group’s million-dollar donors.
Also at the 2014 NRA convention, Butina was invited to ring the NRA’s “liberty bell”:
There may yet be more to this story: The FBI has reportedly been investigating whether the Kremlin funneled money through the NRA to help the Trump campaign. And CNN reported in April that the NRA has been preparing documents and bracing for further scrutiny from the feds.
For the most complete profile of Butina to date, read this from reporter Tim Mak, then at the Daily Beast, now at NPR.