Judge Rears Up at Accused Spy for Subpoenaing School

WASHINGTON (CN) – Roundly objecting to an attempted subpoena on behalf of accused Russian agent Maria Butina, multiple American University students urged a federal judge Friday to quash the effort.

Maria Butina. Photo courtesy William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center)

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan brought the motions to Butina’s attention in an order to show cause this afternoon, giving Butina’s defense attorneys until 5 p.m. to tell her why she shouldn’t quash the subpoenas that they apparently served on American University.

Chutkan later pushed that deadline to 5 p.m. Saturday. Her order includes a redacted copy of one of the motions, noting that the remaining motions are identically worded. In each, unnamed graduate students describe receiving a copy of the subpoena in the mail, and say it asks for student rosters for the classes Butina attended at American University.

“The subpoena gives no reason for the request,” the motion says.

The student cited privacy interests and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act as a basis to quash the subpoena, saying Butina’s attorney failed to show “good cause” for the information.

“Compliance with the subpoena would be unreasonable and oppressive,” the student said.

Butina’s subpoena for “documents, information, or objects” is dated Sept. 4, according to the motion.

Prosecutors charged Butina, 29, with working as an unregistered, covert foreign agent under the direction of Alexander Torshin, who has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and has been sanctioned by the Treasury Department.

Though Butina’s defense characterizes Torshin as just a friend and mentor, prosecutors say Torshin directed Butina as she built relationships with influential American political groups and politicians to gather information as part of an effort to advance the Kremlin’s long-term agenda in the run-up to the 2016 election.

Butina has pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to act as a foreign agent and acting as a foreign agent, and claims she is just a student. Her indictment includes a spelling variation for her first name: Mariia.

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