On the same day that President Donald Trump said he didn’t “see any reason why Russia would interfere in the 2016 election,” the Justice Department announced a Russian woman has been charged with conspiring to infiltrate American political organizations.
The Associated Press reports Maria Butina was arrested Sunday on a charge of conspiracy to act as an unregistered agent of the Russian government. Butina is believed to have acted under the order of an unnamed senior official in the Russian government.
Butina was allegedly directed to infiltrate a gun-rights group –believed to be the National Rifle Association — and other political organizations between 2015 and 2017 in order to influence senior U.S. politicians and develop relationships.
“(Butina was) developing relationships with US persons and infiltrating organizations having influence in American politics, for the purpose of advancing the interests of the Russian federation,” according to a press release from the Justice Department.
The Washington Post reports Butina founded the Right to Bear Arms, a Russian gun rights group and worked with former Russian senator Alexander Torshin, who is a lifetime member of the NRA.
The charges were unsealed Monday, just hours after Trump appeared at a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin. During that press conference, Trump repeatedly denied collusion between his campaign and alleged Russian government interference in the 2016 election, despite information presented by U.S. intelligence agencies suggesting otherwise.
“I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today,” said Trump.
Trump also said he placed some of the blame for the interference on the U.S.
During the press conference, Putin said the suggestion that the Russian government tried to interfere in the election was “nonsense.”
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