Republican Lawmaker Had Maria Butina Over For Thanksgiving

Screengrab/Washington Post/YouTube

Rep. Mark Sanford invited Paul Erickson and his then-girlfriend, Maria Butina, to his family farm last Thanksgiving.

A Republican congressman from South Carolina hosted alleged Russian spy Maria Butina at his family farm last Thanksgiving, according to CNN.

Rep. Mark Sanford invited his college friend Paul Erickson to the gathering of about 300 people, and Erickson in turn brought Butin as his plus one.

"I did meet her, a few interactions were pleasant," Sanford told CNN in an interview. "It's the girlfriend of a guy I've known for 30 years. She seemed nice enough."

Sanford's run-in with Butina highlights the surprise felt from many around Washington when the charges against Butina -- and the involvement of Erickson -- were revealed this week.

Sanford and Erickson attended the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business together 30 years ago, and the two have maintained contact.

The congressman invited Erickson to the post-Thanksgiving event after learning that he would not be returning home to South Dakota for the holida, CNN reported.

"We always have a big crowd at our farm for Thanksgiving, sort of a family-plus event, and so I invited him to come down," Sanford said. "He brought his girlfriend."

Sanford said he remembers meeting Butina, though the conversation was light and not serious.

"He said she was starting an NRA equivalent in Russia," Sanford said, joking it sounded like an "oxymoron" for Russia.

Sanford told CNN he was surprised to see Butina in the news under such circumstance, saying, "It wouldn't be what one would have surmised as to who's somebody's girlfriend is.”

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