Alleged Russian spy Mariia Butina tried to meet with President Donald Trump way back in July 2015, just months after he launched his campaign and far before anyone considered him a viable candidate.
According to a Thursday Politico report, Butina tried to arrange the meeting through GOP political operative Paul Erickson, who reached out to Trump campaign official Sam Nunberg. Nunberg ultimately begged off the meeting, leading Butina to attend a Q&A session with Trump where she asked a question about Russian sanctions.
Previous to this revelation, prosecutors said that Butina had only made overtures to the Trump campaign in May 2016.
Per Politico, in a hearing last Friday, prosecutors examined other instances of Butina, Erickson and Russian Central Bank deputy governor Alexander Torshin trying to suss out which Republican would be the candidate very early on, in the spring of 2015.
In one episode, Butina was reportedly zeroing in on Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) as a possibility, though that connection seems to have hit a dead end after she made “short personal contact” at an NRA event.
The revelations give insight to the group’s intent to identify and cozy up to the Republican candidate even in the earliest days of the campaign.
On Monday, a judge issued a gag order in the case to keep both sides from talking to the media and tainting the jury pool, as well as chiding the prosecutions for using a specious argument that Butina was trying to trade sex for a job.