An alleged Russian agent, Maria Butina, socialized with a former Trump campaign aide during the last weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign, according to the Washington Post.
Butina exchanged emails with J.D. Gordon, who was the director of national security for the Trump campaign. Gordon invited Butina to a Styx concert. He also invited her to his birthday party in late October, 2016.
Gordon issued a statement in response to The Washington Post story, refuting the claims.
“It seems the Maria Butina saga is basically a sensationalized clickbait story meant to smear a steady stream of Republicans and NRA members she reportedly encountered over the past few years,” he said, according to New York Magazine.
Prosecutors allege that Butina, 29, was directed by a Russian official to get involved in U.S. politics while she was a graduate student at American University. Butina publicly asked Trump about his views on Russia during a campaign event.
Butina’s attorney, Robert Driscoll, says the emails show her eagerness to network with Americans.
“A military guy who had been involved would have been a prime target, if that’s what she was about,” said Driscoll to the Washington Post. “But the evidence is clear that there wasn’t any significant contact.”
According to the emails, Butina and Gordon met at a party at the Swiss ambassador’s residence in September, 2016. Paul Erickson, a former adviser for the Trump transition team, connected the two via email.
Good joining @OANN to push back against sensationalist click bait stories re: Maria Butina designed to smear Republicans & NRA members she met during years of networking events as a grad student. I wonder which prominent Republican political figures she hasn't come across?" pic.twitter.com/uzQ9dNWgh2
— J. D. Gordon (@Jeffrey_gordon) August 4, 2018
Erickson said in his email that Butina was a “special friend” of the NRA. Butina followed the email with an invitation to a group dinner hosted by conservative writer George O’Neill, Jr.
Butina also met with Donald Trump, Jr. at a private dinner during an NRA convention in 2016.
Butina is a gun-rights activist who founded a Russian gun-rights group, the Right to Bear Arms. She was arrested in July on charges of “conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government,” according to New York Magazine.
Prosecutors are investigating Butina’s potential ties to the NRA.
Gordon and Driscoll both insist that there was no romantic involvement between Butina and Gordon, and that their contact stopped after Gordon’s birthday party.
“This has nothing to do with the Trump campaign and is again an effort to disparage any Republicans or any National Rifle Association member,” Gordon said, according to Newsweek. Gordon also called the investigation a “witch hunt.”
The charges against Butina were brought directly by the Justice Department. Driscoll stated in July that Butina is cooperating with federal investigators.