Accused Russian spy Maria Butina was twice denied a visa to travel to the United States, only succeeding on her third try, which Butina insinuated was possibly linked to her relationship with the National Rifle Association.
On April 25, 2014, Butina — who on Wednesday was ordered to be held in jail pending trial — posted to her LiveJournal blog from Indianapolis, where she was attending the NRA’s annual “congress” as the leader of the Right to Bear Arms organization, which advocates looser gun control policies in Russia.
“I only got a visa to the United States for annual NRA meetings on the third try. Before that, I missed these congresses for two years because of the opposition of the American government bureaucracy,” said the post, which includes photos of her with NRA leaders and other attendees.
“Finally, the leadership of the NRA itself [came] to visit us, after which it was possible to prove that I would not stay in the US, and I went there on business,” Butina wrote at the time, referencing a trip to Moscow several months earlier by former NRA President David Keene; a prominent NRA booster and longtime Republican operative, Paul Erickson; and other gun rights luminaries.
POLITICO notes that certain of Butina’s social media posts indicate the U.S. government might have harbored concerns about her well in advance of her eventual arrest.
Butina did not say in her 2014 post whether NRA officials took any actions to help her overcome the U.S. government’s objections to her visa requests. The NRA did not respond to requests for comment about its relationship with Butina. In the past, it has denied wrongdoing — unintentional or otherwise — in connection with its dealings with Russian entities.