Evidence Against Accused Russian NRA Plant Kept Under Wraps

WASHINGTON (CN) – Fastening a lid on U.S. evidence against accused Russian operative Mariia Butina, a federal judge dealt a blow Friday to defense efforts at countering the narrative that Butina is a spy who would trade sex for political access.

Mariia Butina in Moscow, in a photo she posted to Facebook in October 2013.

Though the motion for a protective order governing discovery materials was unopposed, McGlinchey Stafford attorney Robert Driscoll urged the court two weeks ago not to go so far as instituting a blanket protective order.

Driscoll said in an email Friday that the order is fairly broad, but that it reflects the terms his team negotiated with the government.

“At some point getting the docs quickly is more important than the P.O.,” Driscoll said, using an abbreviation for protective order.

Arrested on July 15, Butina has pleaded not guilty to charges that she operated as an unregistered foreign agent and that the she formed relationships with influential American politicians and organizations as part of a covert-influence operation to advance Russia’s long-term strategic interests.

Prosecutors contend that 29-year-old Butina had a romantic relationship with Republican operative Paul Erickson and started a pro-gun group in Russia – The Right to Bear Arms – to make inroads with the National Rifle Association.

The American University student’s own blog posts reveal that she was twice denied visas to enter the United States, until her work on gun rights allowed her to enter the country in 2014 for business purposes: attending an NRA conference.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan is presiding over Butina’s prosecution in Washington. Her 5-page protective order says the defense cannot access any discovery materials without first agreeing to various terms, most of which pertain to what can be disclosed to potential witnesses or other authorized parties.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Saunders referred an inquiry to the press office, which declined to comment on the order.

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