Reports: Butina Met With US Gov’t Officials, Received Russian Billionaire’s Funding

Mariia Butina, leader of a pro-gun organization, speaks on October 8, 2013 during a press conference in Moscow. - A 29-year-old Russian woman has been arrested for conspiring to influence US politics by cultivating t... Mariia Butina, leader of a pro-gun organization, speaks on October 8, 2013 during a press conference in Moscow. - A 29-year-old Russian woman has been arrested for conspiring to influence US politics by cultivating ties with political groups including the National Rifle Association, the powerful gun rights lobby. Mariia Butina, whose name is sometimes spelled Maria, was arrested in Washington on July 15, 2018 and appeared in court on July 16, the Justice Department said. (Photo by STR / AFP) (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images) MORE LESS
July 22, 2018 5:14 pm

The alleged Russian foreign agent Mariia Butina and her alleged handler, Russian Central Bank official Alexander Torshin, met in 2015 with officials from the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve, Reuters reported Sunday.

Separately, the Washington Post reported that the billionaire Russian businessman Konstantin Nikolaev had funded Butina’s Russian gun rights group.

Reuters reported that Torshin and Butina, who worked as Torshin’s interpreter during an April 2015 trip they took to Washington, met separately Stanley Fischer, then the vice chairman of the Federal Reserve, and Nathan Sheets, then the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for international affairs.

Reuters said it learned of the meetings from people familiar with them and from a report by the Center for the National Interest, a think tank that supports engagement with Russia and that arranged the meetings. The report outlined the Center’s “Russia-related activities from 2013 to 2015,” in Reuters’ words.

If that group sounds familiar, it’s because CNI worked with Jared Kushner during the 2016 campaign to organize Donald Trump’s first major foreign policy address at the Mayflower Hotel. At the same speech, on the sidelines, Trump, Kushner and then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) met with then-Russian ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak.

The report, Reuters said, described the 2015 meetings as bringing together “leading figures from the financial institutions of the United States and Russia.”

Fischer confirmed meeting with Torshin and his interpreter for a conversation which included “the state of the Russian economy and Torshin’s then-new role as deputy governor of Russia’s central bank,” he told Reuters in an email. An unnamed person familiar with the meeting told Reuters it occurred on April 7, and that Butina was there. Sheets declined to comment to Reuters.

Also in 2015, according to Reuters, Torshin and Butina took part in an off-the-record discussion on the “Russian financial situation and its impact on Russian politics” at CNI.

Separately, the Washington Post cited one unnamed person familiar with April testimony Butina gave to Senate investigators to identify the Russian billionaire the paper said had provided funds for the alleged foreign agent.

The businessman Konstantin Nikolaev’s spokesperson confirmed to the Post that he had been in touch with Butina between 2012 and 2014 but did not confirm whether he had funded her gun rights group.

The Post reported Nikolaev matched the profile of an unnamed “funder” of Butina’s activities described in a court filing as a “known Russian businessman with deep ties to the Russian Presidential Administration.”

Nikolaev’s son Andrey, the Post noted, was a volunteer on the Trump campaign. And Nikolaev, according to two unnamed people “aware of his presence,” was spotted at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. on Inauguration Day in January of last year.

A lawyer for Butina would not confirm that it was Nikolaev who funded her gun group. A spokesperson for Nikolaev said that, contrary to prosecutors’ assertions, his ties to the Russian government “cannot be characterized as deep.”

In addition to his Russian businesses, Nikolaev is a “major investor,” the Post noted, in American Ethanol. The company was featured at an event attended by President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing in November. At the event, American Ethanol signed a $26 billion deal to deliver liquid ethane to China, the Post reported.

Read Reuters’ report here. Read the Post’s report here.

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