WASHINGTON — Since being accused by federal prosecutors of working with American conservatives to infiltrate the National Rifle Association, Russian former FBI employee Maria Butina has been pulled off the front lines of a legal battle that includes allegations by her ex-boss that the government allowed her to skirt sanctions, and an embarrassing statement by the U.S. prosecutor that Russian President Vladimir Putin has asked President Donald Trump to pardon her.
And when the case was already moving rapidly — she has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy and other charges — the fact that she now sits as a deputy in Russia’s lower house of parliament has created a more complicated quandary. If Butina were to be extradited to the United States to face charges, she would be forced to choose whether to cooperate with federal prosecutors or potentially leave the country.
Butina is in Russia, serving a six-month suspension from the State Duma in her honor, which involves serving unpaid time in a lawmakers’ cafeteria.
Despite her status as a Duma deputy, her arrest and her later lengthy detention in the United States has been an embarrassment to Russian officials — largely because the investigation into her activities was facilitated by investigators at the FBI and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
So how long can Butina continue to serve in Russia’s legislature? Will she be able to keep from getting entangled in further legal headaches? And in order to fulfill her internship with U.S. lawmakers, will Russian officials insist that she cannot be prosecuted for what she did here in America?