The Justice Department recommended an 18-month prison sentence Friday for Maria Butina, a Russian national who prosecutors claim helped the Russian government by reporting back to Moscow on key political figures in the U.S.
Prosecutors said in their court filing that Butina “was not a spy in the traditional sense” and is not a trained intelligence officer of the Kremlin. Instead, the government claims that Butina took part in a “spotting and assessing” operation on behalf of the Russian government to identify potential intelligence assets in the U.S.
Butina worked with a Russian government official identified as Alexander Torshin to infiltrate conservative groups like the National Rifle Association and to establish contacts with Republican presidential campaigns, according to prosecutors.
“Acquiring information valuable to a foreign power does not necessarily involve collecting classified documents or engaging in cloak-and-dagger activities,” prosecutors said in Friday’s filing.
“Something as basic as the identification of people who have the ability to influence policy in a foreign power’s favor is extremely attractive to those powers,” it said. “This identification could form the basis of other forms of intelligence operations, or targeting, in the future.”
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