Maria Butina, a Russian graduate student accused of infiltrating American conservative politics on behalf of the Russian government, pleads guilty to conspiring to act as an illegal foreign agent in the United States.
Four people implicated in broader questions of collusion and Russian influence have been indicted by or pleaded guilty to charges brought outside the direct purview of the Mueller investigation:
- On July 16, 2018, Maria Butina, a Russian graduate student at American University in Washington, D.C., was arrested and indicted on two counts of conspiracy and acting as a foreign agent for the Russian government. According to the indictment, Butina had worked for at least four years to develop relationships within the Republican Party, including with prominent politicians and high-ranking members of the National Rifle Association. Butina initially pleaded not guilty and said she was merely networking in a personal capacity. On December 13, 2018, Butina pleaded guilty to conspiring to act as an illegal foreign agent in the United States.
- On August 21, 2018, Michael Cohen pleaded guilty in a Manhattan federal court to eight charges, including tax evasion, bank fraud, and campaign-finance violations. The charges stemmed from payoffs Cohen arranged in the fall of 2016 to ensure the silence of at least two of Trump’s alleged former mistresses. Cohen testified that the payments were made at Trump’s direction with the intent of influencing the 2016 election.
- On August 31, 2018, Sam Patten, a long-time collaborator with Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik in Ukraine, pleaded guilty to violating the Foreign Agent Registration Act during his time working in Ukraine. Patten also admitted to illegally steering $50,000 from a Ukrainian politician into Trump’s inaugural fund, which remains a subject of scrutiny due to unanswered questions about its ultimate dispensation.
- On October 19, 2018, the Department of Justice charged the Russian national Elena Khusyaynova with conspiracy to defraud the United States for her alleged role in “Project Lakhta,” a Russian influence operation aimed at the 2018 midterms. Court documents allege that the operation was funded by Yevgeniy Prigozhin, who was also named in the February 2018 indictment of 13 Russian nationals, as the primary funder of the Internet Research Agency. Khusyaynova was allegedly responsible for managing the finances of Project Lakhta, which was designed to “sow discord in the U.S. political system” by spreading arguments and misinformation about divisive and racially-charged issues, including the Confederate flag, gun control, and protests against police brutality. Khusyaynova later responded in a video posted to the Kremlin-backed news website USA Really denying any knowledge of the operations described in the indictment.