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Maria Butina, Russian gun rights activist linked to NRA, charged with conspiracy

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 a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Washington on Saturday.She is being held pending a hearing set for later this week, according to a Department of Justice press release.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 attached to the complaint 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 a frequent attendee of both NRA events and the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. That stopped this past April, when Torshin was included in a round of U.S. sanctions against Russian oligarchs.The affidavit quotes from several private message exchanges between Butina and the Russian Official, including one in which they discuss whether she should attempt to become an official election observer.“The Russian Official expressed the opinion that ‘the risk of provocation is too high… and Butina agreed by responding, ‘Only incognito! Right now everything has to be quiet and careful.’”But 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 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.Both Torshin and Butina were prolific on social media, posting photos of her modeling with rifles, mingling with GOP presidential hopefuls at the 2014 NRA convention, and posing outside the group’s Virginia headquarters.Through the lens of their social media accounts, Torshin and Butina appear to be close and have posted numerous photos together, from hunting trips in Russia to attending the 2017 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC, seated just a few feet from the keynote speaker President Trump.But on May 12, Butina was just the average graduate student. Donning a royal blue cap and gown, 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

Watch Bob Weir And Jerry Harrison Play “Take Me To The River” At John Perry Barlow Benefit [Videos]

first_imgIn 2015, Grateful Dead lyricist John Perry Barlow suffered a heart attack. Since then, lingering health problems have forced Barlow to spend time in the hospital, and only accumulate medical debt. Fortunately, Barlow has a number of esteemed musician friends who were able to lend a hand, coming together last night at Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley, CA to support the legendary writer. For those who couldn’t make it, donations are still being accepted here.Bob Weir led the festivities, singing songs and telling stories connected to his songwriting partner. He treated fans to a version of “Loose Lucy,” before Lukas Nelson would take the stage and delight with his country tunes.Weir would go on to perform some music with Jerry Harrison, including Velvet Underground’s “White Light/White Heat” and Talking Heads’ “Take Me To The River.” Watch videos of both below. Lukas Nelson wasn’t the only famous child of a musician on stage, as Sean Lennon came to play as well with his Claypool Lennon Delirium bandmates. Lennon, Les Claypool and more treated fans to a rendition of The Beatles tune “Tomorrow Never Knows,” adding some psychedelia to the event. Watch below.The legendary Ramblin’ Jack Elliott also came to play, playing some “San Francisco Bay Blues” for the crowd.With all of these esteemed performers in the building, as well as members of The String Cheese Incident, Jeff Chimenti, Steve Kimock and more, this was an unforgettable night of music. Check out the full setlist below courtesy of Deadheadland.Setlist: Everyday Miracle – A Benefit For John Perry Barlow at Sweetwater Music Hall, Mill Valley, CA – 10/24/1620 Musicians in order of appearance:Bob Weir – acoustic & electric guitars, vocalsLukas Nelson – acoustic guitar, vocalsLeslie Mendelson – vocalsWally Ingram – drums & percussionSteve Kimock – electric guitars, lap steelRobin Sylvester – bassJeff Chimenti – keyboards, vocalsSean Lennon – acoustic guitar, vocalsCharlotte Kemp Muhl – acoustic guitar, vocals & percussionLes Claypool – acoustic bassJerry Harrison – electric piano, vocals, electric guitarAishlin Harrison – vocalsTracy Blackman – vocalsJason Hann – percussion & drumsJohn “Stewball” Stewart – electric guitar, vocalsRamblin’ Jack Elliott – acoustic guitar, vocalsRob Eaton – electric guitar, vocalsRob Barraco – electric piano, vocalsMichael Kang – electric guitar, vocalsMichael Travis – percussion, vocals7:35pm – 7:55pmBob, Lukas, Leslie, WallyBlue Bayou (Bob, Leslie, Lukas)? (Lukas)Shaky Ground (Bob)8:20pm – 8:35pmBob, Steve, Jeff, Robin, WallyHell In a Bucket (Bob)I Need a Miracle (Bob) w/Leslie8:45pm – 9:00pmSean, Charlotte, LesThe World Was Made For Men (Sean & Charlotte)Boomerang Baby (Sean)Tomorrow Never Knows (Sean) w/Wally on drums & percussion9:05pm – 9:30pmJerry, Aishlin, Tracy, Leslie, Steve, Robin, WallyHeaven (Aishlin)Take Me To The River (Aishlin) w/Bob on guitar & Jason on percussionShe Cracked (Jerry vocals & guitar) >White Light/White Heat (Jerry vocals & guitar)9:30pm – 9:45pmBob, Jeff, Robin, Steve, Wally, JohnDesolation Row (Bob & John)9:45pm – 10:10pm Words from John Barlow’s three daughters & honoring of family, friends & supporters. Auction items.10:20pm – 10:40pmRamblin’ Jack ElliottMean Old Bed Bug Blues (Jack) w/Bob on acoustic guitar(Bob admonishes audience to STFU)Me & Bobby McGee (Jack & Bob)10:40pm – 10:50pmRob Barraco, Rob Eaton, Steve, Robin, WallyMexicali Blues (Eaton)Jack Straw (Eaton & Barraco) w/Jeff on keyboards10:55pm – 11:25pmMichael Kang, Jason, Michael Travis, Steve, Jeff, RobinThese Waves (Kang)Give Me The Love (Kang) w/Leslie & Tracy on backing vocalsJust One Story (Kang) joined halfway w/Bob & Lukas on guitars.11:25pm – 11:40pmBob, Steve, Jeff, Leslie, Lukas, Robin, WallyCassidy (Bob & Leslie)Set list compiled by Rob Scalcione[Videos by Rod Giffen]last_img read more

Top 10 Most-Read Long Island News Stories of 2014

first_imgSign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York It’s always striking how right after the Press staff painstakingly ranks the most significant Long Island news stories of the year, we find few of those stories are among the most read.What follows, dear readers, are the top 10 local news articles that you clicked on the most throughout the span of the last 12 months—some of which are more predictable than others.As always, thanks for reading, folks!10. Long Island Slammed With a Foot of RainRoads turned into rivers. Homes far from shore flooded. More than 13 inches of rainfall in and around the Town of Islip within a few hours, shattering records. All thanks to a freak storm Aug. 13 that fell short of causing enough monetary damage to secure Federal Emergency Management Agency clean-up aid for those affected.9. Ronald Bower Released on Parole After 23 YearsIt’s a story we’ve been following for a decade. Ronald Bower, the man who a growing number of law enforcement officials believe was falsely convicted of heinous sex attacks in Nassau and Queens, was freed from prison. Now, his family sets their sights on clearing his name, and ultimately, exoneration.8. Missing Syosset Woman Committed SuicideAn intense search was launched when 22-year-old Jasmine Joseph of Syosset was reported missing in February after telling her parents that she was studying at New York Institute of Technology’s Old Westbury campus library. While many feared that she was a victim of foul play, the investigation came to a tragic end when police determined that she took her own life in her Nissan Altima. It turned out that she had stopped attending classes months earlier.7. Shooting at Garden City Lounge Wounds 2It’s not hard to see why this shocking crime got so many clicks. A shooter fired a shotgun into a crowd of people at Mint Restaurant & Lounge outside Roosevelt Field Mall in the early morning hours of Sunday, March 16, and when the smoke cleared, two men were wounded. Emmanuel Barnett, 21, of Cambria Heights later died of a gunshot wound to the head. Police later apprehended the suspect, Tyshaun Phillips, also 21, of the Bronx, who has pleaded not guilty to murder and is awaiting trial. The incident came after a gunman shot two people, killing one at a lighting company near the same mall six months prior, and a falling display rack at the mall on Christmas Eve 2013 sparked scares of a shooting.6. Ex-Freeport Principal Admits Having Sex With TeenThis one is beyond disturbing. A former middle school principal, John O’Mard, met a 16-year-old boy on Grindr, a dating app for men, and had sex with the teen. Later, the principal is found to have lied about having prior criminal convictions on his job application.5. New Documentary Takes Standardized Testing Common Core Battle to Big ScreenStandardized: Lies, Money, and Civil Rights: How Testing is Ruining Public Education by filmmaker Daniel Hornberger brought out a cast of characters that included two Long Island teachers, Lace to the Top founders Kevin Glynn and Anthony Griffin. The film captured how the standardized testing industry has corrupted public education in the wake of the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, funded by President Obama’s Race to the Top initiative. Some recognizable LI faces in the film included Bellmore mom and advocate Jeanette Deutermann, East Islip mom GiGi Guiliano and Oceanside teacher Marla Kilfoyle, a founding member of BATs, aka Badass Teachers.4. News12 Journalist Sean Bergin Suspended Over On-air RemarksNews 12 Long Island and fellow Cablevision-owned Newsday didn’t bother reporting on the controversy stirred up when then-News 12 reporter Sean Bergin was suspended for comments he made on air while broadcasting about a suspect gunning down a New Jersey police officer. Bergin surmised that the “underlying cause” of anti-cop sentiments is “young black men growing up without fathers.” He said that his former employer later offered him one day of work weekly doing light features and no hard news. He declined.3. 2 Long Island Hospitals Designated for Ebola TreatmentSince campaign season is over and no more Americans have been infected, it’s been a while since there has been much attention paid to the largest outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in history. But, back in October, at the height of the panic, readers were hungry for news about the fact that New York State officials designated eight hospitals to handle potential Ebola patients—including two on LI. They include Stony Brook University Hospital and North Shore LIJ.2. News12 Anchor Judy Martin Found DeadWhen the 49-year-old Emmy Award-winning News12 Long Island journalist was found dead in her Halesite home earlier this year, the sad news unleashed a wave of grief from her fans, colleagues and sources. The accredited yoga instructor, who founded WorkLifeNation, taught business professionals how to reduce stress on the side. She was later determined to have died of natural causes.1. How Long Island is Losing its War on HeroinDespite authorities repeating years ago that LI could not arrest its way out of the deadly heroin epidemic, both arrests and overdoses continue to rise—same as comparable stats have nationwide. In Nassau, where lawmakers passed a law in 2008 requiring police to post a database alerting the public of the location of heroin arrests, that task went unfulfilled for three years. And despite efforts aimed at treatment and prevention, complacency has allowed the scourge to continue claiming young lives.last_img read more

France terror attacks: Macron beefs up border security, doubling police numbers

first_img– Advertisement – And, in a letter to the Financial Times, he made clear France was fighting “Islamist separatism, never Islam”. He accused the British newspaper of misquoting him in an article – which has since been removed from its website – suggesting he was “stigmatising French Muslims for electoral purposes”. – Advertisement –last_img