Federal prosecutors in Washington revealed on Monday that they have arrested a 29-year-old woman and accused her of acting as a covert agent inside the U.S. on behalf of a senior Kremlin official, The Associated Press reported.
The announcement of the arrest of Maria Butina came just hours after President Donald Trump met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. It also came three days after special counsel Robert Mueller charged 12 Russian intelligence officials with directing a hacking effort aimed at swaying the 2016 election.
Butina, a Russian national who has been living the U.S., was charged with conspiracy to act as an unregistered agent of the Russian government and accused of working to infiltrate American political organizations, including the National Rifle Association.
The charge was brought the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia and do not appear to stem from Mueller's investigation, noted AP.
According to court papers, Butina met with U.S. politicians and candidates, attended events sponsored by special interest groups — including two National Prayer Breakfast events — and organized Russian-American "friendship and dialogue" dinners in Washington with the goal of "reporting back to Moscow" what she had learned.
Court papers do not name the Kremlin official. The person is described as a member of the Russian legislature who later became a top official in the country's central bank. Prosecutors also note that the official has since been sanctioned by the U.S.
Butina is a Russian gun rights advocate who founded a pro-gun organization in that country. She reportedly hosted several leading NRA executives and pro-gun conservatives at her group's annual meeting in 2015.
Mueller on Friday indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers in the 2016 hacking of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
Mueller was appointed in May by the Justice Department as special counsel to oversee the federal investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election.
His appointment was announced after Attorney General Jeff Sessions previously recused himself from any involvement in the Russia investigation due to his role as a prominent campaign adviser and surrogate.
Trump has argued that Mueller has hired "Hillary Clinton supporters" and people who worked for Clinton's 2016 White House bid to work on his investigation.
Indeed, reports recently emerged that a controversial dossier against Trump compiled ahead of the 2016 presidential election, which suggested then-candidate Trump colluded with the Russian government, was produced at the behest of the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.