Maria Butina, the convicted Russian agent who last month was sentenced 18 months in prison for her illegal attempts to back channel with American conservative leaders and the Trump administration, is appealing her prison term.
Currently housed at the Grady County Jail in Chickasha, Oklahoma, Butina filed her appeal with the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on Wednesday. The paperwork, embedded below, does not state a basis for her appeal.
Butina pleaded guilty last December to a conspiracy in which she “sought to establish unofficial lines of communication with Americans having power and influence over U.S. politics” and “to use those unofficial lines of communication for the benefit of the Russian Federation.” As Rolling Stone detailed in an investigation prior to her arrest, Butina had worked for years to gain influence in the National Rifle Association, which she then used as a conduit to GOP politicians.
In the lead up to her April sentencing, the U.S. government underscored Butina’s claim to have helped vet a candidate to be Trump’s secretary of state. A former FBI counterintelligence official submitted a declaration that Butina’s “spot-and-assess operation” — identifying key U.S. influencers who could be leveraged by Russian intelligence — was of “immense” value to the Kremlin: “Butina provided the Russian Federation with information that skilled intelligence officers can exploit for years, and that may cause significant damage to the United States.”
Butina portrayed herself as a naive, starry-eyed peacemaker, who just wanted to improve U.S.-Russia relations (and get Vladimir Putin on U.S. cable TV). In court, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan dismissed Butina’s spin, declaring that her plot was “not a simple misunderstanding by an overeager foreign student.” Instead, Chutkan said, the Russian had “jeopardized this country’s national security.”
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The case has become a sore spot between the United States and Russia. Shortly after Butina’s sentence was handed down, Russian President Vladimir Putin insisted the U.S. had “nothing on her” and that her prison term was an “outrage.”