Alleged Russian agent Mariia Butina was in contact with former Trump campaign aide J.D. Gordon in the weeks leading up to the 2016 presidential election, the Washington Post reported Friday.
Gordon, who served as a former foreign policy adviser to Trump, told the newspaper he disclosed their meetings and emails in testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee.
According to Gordon, he met Butina at a party in Washington, D.C. in September 2016 and exchanged a series of messages after GOP operative Paul Erickson followed up to connect them more formally. Gordon also invited Butina to a Styx concert and to his birthday party, the Post reported.
Butina has pleaded not guilty to acting as an unregistered foreign agent for Russia, and is awaiting trial in a D.C. jail. She is accused of carrying out a covert influence campaign, befriending prominent U.S. conservatives and infiltrating organizations like the National Rifle Association.
Gordon confirmed to the Post that their interactions occurred, describing them as innocuous.
“From everything I’ve read since her arrest last month, it seems the Maria Butina saga is basically a sensationalized click bait story meant to smear a steady stream of Republicans and NRA members she reportedly encountered over the past few years,” he said in a statement, adding that Butina reached out to “likely thousand of people.”