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Maria Butina, Alleged Russian Spy, Met with Obama Team Before 2016 Election

This individual supposedly had high-level meetings with senior aides to the former president and a Russian official back in 2015

Image Credit: STR/AFP/Getty Images

Alleged Russian spy Maria Butina was involved in high-level meetings with two senior U.S. officials in the Obama administration and a Russian official before the 2016 election, according to multiple sources and a Washington, D.C., think tank, as The Daily Wire and other outlets reported.

The meetings — “disclosed by several people familiar” with them, noted Reuters, and also by a report prepared by the think tank that arranged the meetings — involved Stanley Fischer, then Federal Reserve vice chairman, and Nathan Sheets, who was then the Treasury undersecretary for international affairs.

Butina reportedly came into the U.S. in April 2015 with then-Russian Central Bank Deputy Governor Alexander Torshin to participate in “separate meetings with Fischer and Sheets, to discuss U.S.- Russian economic relations during Democratic former President Barack Obama’s administration.”

The think tank involved in the meetings is the Central for the National Interest (CNI), a group that advocates for improved U.S.- Russia relations, as CBS reported.

Although Russian meddling in American politics is popular fodder for morning talk shows and grasping Democrats, the mainstream media today don’t mention much about the Obama administration and Russia.

Those two entities had a murky and tenuous relationship; long before the 2016 election, Russia was engaged in cyber-manipulation against the United States, which escalated during the 2016 presidential campaign.

“And yet, despite knowledge of the ongoing cyberwarfare,” wrote Monica Crowley, senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research, based at King’s College in New York City, in a piece for The Hill, “the president at the time, Barack Obama, and his intelligence chiefs — John Brennan at the CIA, James Clapper at National Intelligence, James Comey and his predecessor, Robert Mueller, at the FBI — reportedly didn’t lift a finger to stop it.”

Crowley posited, “Why? Because the Obama administration was obsessed with protecting its bigger agenda: namely, closing and implementing the Iran nuclear deal and trying to save their collapsed Russian ‘reset.'”

Under Obama’s watch, Russian groups engaged in cyberespionage against the United States — launching attacks on the unclassified email systems of the White House, the State Department and the Defense Department’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, among other high-level targets, noted Crowley.

“While Russia incessantly used advanced cyberweapons against us and launched ground wars against its neighbors, and while the secretary of state and Democratic presidential candidate left state secrets wide open, Obama and his intel chiefs buried the rising threats,” she wrote.

Butina was charged last week by federal prosecutors for allegedly conspiring against the U.S. and acting as an unregistered foreign agent of the Russian intelligence agency known as FSB.

Related: Not ‘Much Daylight’ Between Trump and Obama on Russia, Actually

Butina has been accused of working with a top Russian official and two unidentified U.S. citizens to infiltrate a pro-gun rights organization in the U.S., along with attempting to influence America’s foreign policy toward Russia, as CNBC.com and others reported.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov called the actions of American authorities — whom he alleged arrested Butina “on the basis of fabricated charges” — unacceptable, according to CNBC, and called for her release as soon as possible, during a call to improve the bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Russia.

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