Maria Butina, the Russian national accused of acting as a Kremlin agent in the United States, was abruptly moved from a jail in Washington to a lockup in Alexandria, Virginia, according to her lawyer.
“I got a collect call from Maria from Alexandria Detention at midnight last night, but was disconnected before we could speak,” Robert Driscoll told The Daily Beast. “I couldn’t get in to the facility last night, but visited her this morning. She was not informed of the reason for the move. I was not notified of the move, and still am unaware of the reason.”
Amy Bertsch, a spokeswoman for the Alexandria Sheriff’s Office, confirmed Butina arrived around 7 p.m. Friday at William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center, which also houses federal inmates. Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chief, is also currently being held at the same jail, awaiting the verdict in his trial for a host of alleged financial crimes.
While the Manafort case is on trial two blocks from detention center, Butina's case is slated for federal court in D.C. The jail has housed other high-profile inmates who have been on trial in D.C., including Ahmed Abu Khatallah, the Libyan militia leader who was sentenced to 22 years in prison for his role in Benghazi attacks. He was housed in the Alexandria detention center from his arrival in the U.S. in 2014 until this summer.
Russian agent Maria Butina is due to be released from prison Friday — and immediately escorted back to the Motherland, according to her lawyer.
Butina, a pro-gun activist who infiltrated conservative political circles as a secret agent for the Kremlin, will be released from a low-security prison in Tallahassee, Fla., where she was serving 18 months for working as an undeclared agent of a foreign government without registering in the US.
The red-headed inmate will be sent packing back to Moscow accompanied by two Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, her lawyer, Robert Driscoll, told the Washington Examiner.
However, he said he has been kept in the dark over her exact itinerary — knowing only that she will get to make one call before boarding her final connecting flight home.
“They tend to do these things like they’re moving a nuclear bomb, and they’re not,” Driscoll complained of US officials’ secrecy.
Butina, 30, has picked an outfit from Amazon to replace her prison uniform, the lawyer said, without giving details on her get-up.
She “didn’t want to deal with” with bags, he told the paper of her plans to travel light.
“My thought would be that she’ll fly to Atlanta, bounce to Europe somewhere, and then fly to Moscow, and get there midday Saturday,” Driscoll predicted to the outlet.
Maria Butina, who pleaded guilty late last year to conspiring to act on behalf of the Russian government as a clandestine foreign agent in the United States, was released Friday into the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Eagerly anticipating Butina’s impending liberation, Russian state media outlets expected to live-stream her release, but U.S. authorities had other plans. Having traveled to the Tallahassee Federal Correctional Institution from Atlanta, Georgia and Jacksonville, Florida, Russian state TV stringers were stranded for hours filming traffic, building exits and geese on the lawn. Meanwhile, Butina was quietly whisked out of the facility and transferred to the custody of ICE for a speedy deportation back to Russia.
During her flight from Miami to Moscow, the crew of Aeroflot transferred Butina from an economy seat at the back of the plane to business-class. Someone offered a traditional Russian gingerbread cookie (pryanik) to sugarcoat Maria’s bitter-sweet voyage. “Once this plane takes off, it’s all over,” Butina remarked. Aboard the plane, the Russian state media blitz was already underway. RT reporters booked seats on the same flight, documenting Butina’s return to Russia. “I would not make it without my people, citizens of my country," Butina told the Russian state media outlet, Sputnik.
The Motherland welcomed Butina with a mighty bear hug. The host of 60 Minutes, Evgeny Popov, told The Daily Beast: “She is a hero! You are not.” He could not specify the nature of Butina’s alleged heroic deeds but Popov predicted that Viktor Bout and Konstantin Yaroshenko would soon follow suit and also be released from U.S. custody. Bout is an international arms dealer, convicted of conspiring to sell weapons to a foreign terrorist group and sentenced to 25 years in prison. Yaroshenko was sentenced to 20 years for conspiring to smuggle cocaine into the United States.
Admitted Russian agent Maria Butina learned one major lesson during her years in the United States: when in trouble, play the race card.
In her first post-prison American interview, the 30-year-old gun enthusiast and suspected spy blamed “racism against the Russians” for her legal woes.
“Let me take you back to 2016 … around the election time,” she told Lesley Stahl of CBS’s “60 Minutes.” “Do you remember at that time how American media treated Russia? Everything was toxic. Tell me that there is no racism here against the Russians.”
Butina, who has denied the espionage allegations, was a student at American University in Washington, D.C. who initiated contacts with conservative activists and later pleaded guilty to conspiring to act as an unregistered foreign agent in December 2018, serving nine months in a Florida prison. She was released Oct. 25.
“I think it’s an American, very old saying that suggests that wolves have teeth, but not all animals with teeth are wolves,” she said in the interview, airing Sunday. “You cannot judge a person based on appearance.”
In an interview given to a Russian news outlet, Butina claimed U.S. investigators “created an image of a Kremlin seductress” to bolster their charges.
The top White House official responsible for Russia and Europe has been put on indefinite administrative leave amid a security-related investigation, two U.S. officials and a former U.S. official said.
Andrew PeekAndrew Peek when he was deputy assistant secretary of state for Iraq and Iran. State Department
The official, Andrew Peek, who took over the Russia portfolio at the National Security Council in November, had been scheduled to join President Donald Trump at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this week before he was abruptly put on leave, one of the officials said. The officials declined to specify the nature of the investigation.
Peek did not respond to a request for comment Sunday. A spokesman for the National Security Council declined to comment on his status, which was earlier reported by Axios.