“’It’s all conspiracy theories. There is absolutely no proof of any of that, and I am not aware of any actions like this,’ Maria added, rejecting allegations that there were [sic] some ‘government person’ behind her.” Source: TASS Russian News Agency, November 4, 2019
Butina pled guilty in December to conspiracy to act in the U.S. as an agent of a foreign government, without filing as a foreign agent.
Russia’s TASS state news agency provided a selective account of that interview, focusing exclusively on prison conditions, which Butina characterized as “torture,” a claim that Polygraph.info previously investigated.
Butina told Stahl that Judge Tanya Chutkan was “absolutely wrong” in saying that Butina’s crime – working as an undeclared agent of the Russian government –presented a threat to democratic institutions in the United States.
Butina further claimed her prosecution was based on her nationality and not the merits of the case, saying if she had not been Russian, her efforts to cultivate ties with U.S. political groups and individuals – primarily conservative – “would have been called “social networking.”
“It’s all conspiracy theories. There is absolutely no proof of any of that, and I am not aware of any actions like this,” Butina said, “rejecting,” according to TASS, “allegations that there were [sic] some ‘government person’ behind her.”
TASS’s rendering of this portion of the 60 Minutes interview is misleading.
Torshin, who resigned as deputy governor of Russia’s Central Bank in November 2018 – one month prior to Butina’s guilty plea – was also a former Russian senator who has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. According to Politico, a U.S. newspaper, FBI counterintelligence linked Torshin to a “U.S.-Russia exchange program” that the agency alleges “was an elaborate cover for a Washington-based Russian spy recruiting effort.”
Politico also reported that Torshin helped facilitate the so-called “Illegals Program” spy swap, in which 10 Russian operatives who had been living undercover in the U.S. for years (including “Anna Chapman”) were exchanged for four Russian citizens imprisoned by Russia on espionage charges.
CBS reported it obtained thousands of private Twitter messages between Butina and Torshin, which apparently caught Butina off guard.