Maria Butina, Russian gun rights activist linked to NRA, charged as Kremlin agent


first_imgiStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — FBI counter-intelligence agents have arrested a 29-year-old Russian woman on charges she acted as a Kremlin agent while working over the past three years to build relationships in the upper ranks of the National Rifle Association.Maria Butina, the cofounder of the mysterious Russian gun-rights group called “Right to Bear Arms” who recently graduated with a master’s degree from American University, “took steps to develop relationships with American politicians in order to establish private, or as she called them, ‘back channel’ lines of communication,” according to an affidavit attached to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Washington on Saturday.“These lines could be used by the Russian Federation to penetrate the U.S. national decision-making apparatus to advance the agenda of the Russian Federation,” the affidavit reads, using Russia’s official country name.She is being held pending a hearing set for later this week, according to a Department of Justice press release. The case brought against her was not brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team, and it is not known whether it has any connection to the broader investigation into Russian meddling in the presidential campaign.Butina denied the charges through an attorney, who called the complaint against her “overblown” and said she “intends to defend her rights vigorously and looks forward to clearing her name.”According to Butina’s attorney, the FBI executed a search warrant at her Washington, D.C., apartment in April, and the affidavit states that agents searched her electronic devices, including her laptop and iPhone.“While styled as some sort of conspiracy, in actuality it describes a conspiracy to have a ‘friendship dinner’ … with a group of Americans and Russians to discuss foreign relations between the two countries – hardly a shocking development for a Russian International Relations student living in Washington,” Driscoll said. “There is simply no indication of Butina seeking to influence or undermine any specific policy or law in the United States – only to promote a better relationship between the two nations.”In the affidavit, however, the FBI alleges that Butina came to the U.S. under the direction of an unnamed Russian official, who based on the description, appears to be her longtime mentor, Alexander Torshin. A former member of the Russian parliament, Torshin is one of President Vladimir Putin’s closest allies and is now deputy governor of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation.Torshin is a lifetime member of the NRA and — until this past April, when he was included in a round of U.S. sanctions against Russian oligarchs – a frequent attendee of both NRA events and the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington.Torshin and Butina accompanied several NRA board members on a December 2015 visit to Moscow, and Torshin sat at a dinner table with Donald Trump Jr. at the the May 2016 National Rifle Association convention. He and Butina also attended the 2017 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington D.C., where President Donald Trump was the keynote speaker.A White House spokesperson and a spokesperson for Donald Trump Jr. both did not respond to a request for comment.The affidavit quotes from several private message exchanges shortly before the 2016 presidential election between not only Butina and the Russian Official but Butina and an unnamed U.S. person, both of whom, the affidavit notes, she met and communicated with regularly as they developed an “influence operation.”In one early exchange, Butina emailed the U.S. person in 2015 describing what she called the “central place and influence” the NRA enjoys in an unnamed political party as the “largest sponsor of the elections to the US congress, as well as a sponsor of The CPAC conference and other events.”The following year, the U.S. person emailed an acquaintance, saying “I’ve been involved in securing a VERY private line of communication between the Kremlin” and leaders of an unnamed political party through an unnamed gun rights organization.Shortly after, Butina exchanged messages with the Russian official on Twitter, in which they discussed strategy and impressed upon each other the importance of their work.“Time will tell,” Butina wrote. “We made our bet. I am following our game.”“No doubt,” the Russian official responded. “Of course we will win … And it is not about winning today’s fight (although we are striving for it) but to win the entire battle. This is the battle for the future, it cannot be lost! Or everyone will lose.”Butina actually crossed paths with both President Trump and his son, Donald Trump Jr., during the 2016 campaign, including a moment at the FreedomFest conference in Las Vegas in July 2015 when she asked the Republican candidate directly about his views on U.S. sanctions against Russia.In recent months, Butina’s close ties to senior officials with the NRA have prompted criticism of the gun rights organization. Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, led an effort to determine whether Russian nationals donated money to any offshoots of the NRA as part of any effort to influence American politics.The National Rifle Association has denied receiving money “from foreign persons or entities in connection with United States elections.” An NRA spokesperson did not respond to multiple requests from ABC News for comment regarding the charges against Butina.Critics of the controversial gun-rights group pounced on the fresh allegations.“The NRA has avoided explaining its ties to Putin for more than a year now,” John Feinblatt, President of Everytown for Gun Safety, told ABC News Monday. “That should end now that DOJ has charged a Russian national with deep ties to NRA leadership” with trying to infiltrate organizations to advance the interests of Russia.The recent arrest represents a sudden reversal of fortune for Butina. On May 12, Butina she was celebrating, Donning a royal blue cap and gown as she accepted her diploma from American University, earning a degree in International Relations.According to her student profile, Butina focused on “Global Security” for the past two years. A webpage on American University’s website offered several details about the program, including developing a student’s ability to “analyze how different understandings of peace and security inform policy choices and ways of thinking about patterns of conflict.”Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.last_img read more

Large solar flares and their ionospheric D region enhancements


first_imgOn 4 November 2003, the largest solar flare ever recorded saturated the GOES satellite X-ray detectors, making an assessment of its size difficult. However, VLF radio phase advances effectively recorded the lowering of the VLF reflection height and hence the lowest edge of the Earth’s ionosphere. Previously, these phase advances were used to extrapolate the GOES 0.1–0.8 nm (“XL”) fluxes from saturation at X17 to give a peak magnitude of X45 ± 5 for this great flare. Here it is shown that a similar extrapolation, but using the other GOES X-ray band, 0.05–0.4 nm (“XS”), is also consistent with a magnitude of X45. Also reported here are VLF phase measurements from two paths near dawn: “Omega Australia” to Dunedin, New Zealand (only just all sunlit) and NPM, Hawaii, to Ny Alesund, Svalbard (only partly sunlit), which also give remarkably good extrapolations of the flare flux, suggesting that VLF paths monitoring flares do not necessarily need to be in full daylight. D region electron densities are modeled as functions of X-ray flux up to the level of the great X45 flare by using flare-induced VLF amplitudes together with the VLF phase changes. During this great flare, the “Wait” reflection height, H′, was found to have been lowered to ∼53 km or ∼17 km below the normal midday value of ∼70 km. Finally, XL/XS ratios are examined during some large flares, including the great flare. Plots of such ratios against XL can give quite good estimates of the great flare’s size (X45) but without use of VLF measurements.last_img read more

AC Milan to offer two players in swap for Lucas Torreira as Arsenal identify replacement


first_imgAdvertisement The former Sampdoria midfielder is thought to be keen on a return to Italy (Picture: Getty)AC Milan are prepared to offer two players to Arsenal in exchange for Lucas Torreira, though any deal will be dependent on the Gunners signing a replacement first.While the Uruguayan is not agitating for a move away from the Emirates this summer, he is open to returning to Italy and would be keen to reunite with old Sampdoria boss Marco Giampaolo at San Siro.But Arsenal would expect a big profit on the £26m they paid for Torreira last summer if they are to let him leave, and Milan will struggle to meet those demands. Rodriguez, who is still only 26, laid on three assists in 35 Serie A outings last season (Getty)Gazzetta also report that Arsenal will only let Torreira leave if they land a replacement first, and the Gunners have identified Real Madrid’s Dani Ceballos as the ideal successor.The Spaniard is highly rated by Emery and Real need to sell after splashing the cash on signings this summer; the Liga giants want £45m, though a compromise will likely be found, and the prospect of bringing in both Rodriguez and Ceballos could tempt Arsenal to let Torreira go.More: Arsenal FCArsenal flop Denis Suarez delivers verdict on Thomas Partey and Lucas Torreira movesThomas Partey debut? Ian Wright picks his Arsenal starting XI vs Manchester CityArsene Wenger explains why Mikel Arteta is ‘lucky’ to be managing Arsenal Torreira recently revealed his struggles in adapting to life in England (Picture: Reuters)According to Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport, the Italian club are therefore willing to include two players in a deal: midfielder Franck Kessie and left-back Ricardo Rodriguez.AdvertisementAdvertisementADVERTISEMENTMilan’s willingness to include Kessie in a deal has already been reported, though the Serie A side’s valuation of around £35m – coupled with Arsenal’s interest in other midfielders – could prove to be a stumbling block.More: FootballRio Ferdinand urges Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to drop Manchester United starChelsea defender Fikayo Tomori reveals why he made U-turn over transfer deadline day moveMikel Arteta rates Thomas Partey’s chances of making his Arsenal debut vs Man CityThe Rossoneri are more optimistic about Rodriguez being accepted as part of a player-plus-cash deal, however, with Milan ‘convinced’ that the player is exactly what Unai Emery is looking for.Arsenal are in the market for a new left-back this summer, with Nacho Monreal expected to leave, and Rodriguez’s attacking intent and versatility – also capable of playing as a wing-back – is a good fit for Emery. AC Milan to offer two players in swap for Lucas Torreira as Arsenal identify replacementcenter_img Metro Sport ReporterWednesday 26 Jun 2019 10:07 amShare this article via facebookShare this article via twitterShare this article via messengerShare this with Share this article via emailShare this article via flipboardCopy link857Shares Comment Advertisementlast_img read more

How the Trojan alumni are faring at the top level


first_imgJones leads the team in rushing yards this season at 314 while averaging 4.2 yards per carry, a healthy improvement from the abysmal 1.9 mark he had last year. Anything would be an improvement from Jones’ play in 2018, which could be attributed to  a new approach.  Leonard Williams Against the New England Patriots, Darnold could barely complete a pass, and his poor performance was further underscored by the fact that the TV crew picked him up saying he was “seeing ghosts” in the game. Darnold’s play was similarly poor Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He threw for just 218 yards and three interceptions, emerging from the game with a sprained thumb. Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster matches his big personality with his on-the-field play. A big-bodied receiver, Smith-Schuster uses his strength to bully defenders and come down with physical catches. Coming off a 1,400-yard receiving year and the departure of Antonio Brown, Smith-Schuster appeared to be poised for another productive year.  The season has turned out to be a big question mark for Darnold thus far, as he has already suffered  three injuries. Perhaps most unfortunate, Darnold suffered from strep throat and mononucleosis before his Week 2 contest against the Cleveland Browns and was out through Week 5 due to an enlarged spleen.  Darnold came back strong for Week 6, leading the Jets to their first and only win of the season over the Dallas Cowboys while putting up over 300 yards and two touchdowns. The next two games were a different story, however.  Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones II has been a pleasant surprise this season. After failing to even crack the gameday 46-man roster, Jones was a healthy scratch in multiple games last season despite being a second round pick. It’s probably too early to grade Darnold’s performance this season given that he’s missed half of it, but if he can play like he did against the Cowboys, he’ll have a bright future. The former Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year was listed as a first-team alternate for the 2017 Pro Bowl but has not lived up to his draft hype since then. Williams has recorded just eight solo tackles through the first seven contests of 2019, but he’ll hope to experience better luck with the 2-6 Giants than he did with the 1-6 Jets in a new chapter of his football career. While it seemed as though Jones was just a quick-to-accelerate speed back who didn’t pan out, the terrible competition in the Buccaneers backfield finally allowed him to get touches.  The Jets’ second-year quarterback Sam Darnold headlines a group of USC alumni that hoped to break out in their second season. Darnold entered the season with high expectations due to the improved core around him, namely star running back Le’Veon Bell and new offensive-minded head coach Adam Gase. Ronald Jones II Former Jets defensive end Leonard Williams will now play for MetLife Stadium’s other tenant, the New York Giants. Williams was traded to the Giants Monday in exchange for a 2020 third-round pick and a 2021 fifth-round pick. 2009 John McKay Award winner Devon Kennard has been a dominant presence for the Detroit Lions this season as the team looks to remain competitive within the NFC North. The former fifth-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft has three sacks this season and is tied for fourth among linebackers with two fumble recoveries, including one that was returned for a touchdown in the Lions’ last game. Although Detroit’s playoff hopes are slim in a competitive division, Kennard could be bound for a Pro Bowl if he continues his impressive play this season. Former USC wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster had a great 2018 season for the Pittsburgh Steelers but has not been as productive this year. (Daily Trojan file photo) Sam Darnold JuJu Smith-Schuster However, after quarterback Ben Roethlisberger suffered a season-ending elbow injury in Week 1, Smith-Schuster’s production fell off a cliff. With just 443 yards and three touchdowns in seven starts, it’s been a bit of a down year for the typically-dominant USC product. Head coach Bruce Arians is an offensive mastermind who should allow Jones to further develop the talent he flashed during his time at USC. From former Rose Bowl MVP Sam Darnold to former Biletnikoff award candidate JuJu Smith-Schuster, there is no shortage of Trojan talent in the NFL this season. Not only are  these USC alumni great players, but they are explosive, exciting athletes who genuinely make the game more entertaining. Here’s how these Trojan alumni have stacked up through the first eight weeks of NFL competition. Devon Kennardlast_img read more

Ghana League Cypher:Hearts of Oak better off keeping Coach Herbert Addo for season’s remainder


first_imgThe calls for the dismissal of Accra Hearts of Oak head coach Herbert Addo reached an all-time high following the Phobians loss at the hands of Hasaacas. With nine games to go in the First Capital Plus Premier League, are the Phobians better off doing away with the services of their trainer or will their persistence to see Herbert handle the team for the remainder of the campaign pay off?Watch Supersport/GPL Commentator, Willie Graham ,Coach Eben Sefa and Seidu Adamu discuss the impact both scenarios will have on the rest of the season for the Accra giants on this week’s edition of the Ghana League Cypher anchored by Joy Sports George Addo Jnr!Watch Videolast_img read more