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Accused Russian spy had shirtless Putin photo on phone, college friends say

Who is accused Russian spy Maria Butina?

New details are emerging about accused Russian spy Maria Butina's time as a student at American University. Investigative reporter Tom Hamburger worked on a report about Butina for the Washington Post, in which he spoke to a number of her fellow students and friends. Hamburger says she was known for embracing her homeland, and even had a photo on her cellphone case of Russian President Vladimir Putin riding shirtless on horseback.

"Some were, became conscious early, of this very outspoken advocacy of the Kremlin and some eyebrows were raised at American University when in 2017, former National Security Director Susan Rice got an office, an academic office, where she's working on a book at American University, that was in the same suite of offices where Maria Butina had a job as a student worker," Hamburger told CBSN on Wednesday. "Some of these concerns were raised, but it's a university, you know, and people have strong views. They argue, they make the point, and American University is a place full of international students. So it didn't set off alarms immediately but now there's a great deal of chatter about Maria Butina at AU and what she was up to."

Butina reportedly met with top officials in Washington in 2015, in a meeting that included a visiting Russian official and officials from the Federal Reserve and Treasury Department.

But Hamburger says Butina had a wide array of contacts that she managed to develop while in Washington.

"The most surprising to us was that she won the confidence of officials and the National Rifle Association and some other conservative organizations which allowed her access to in 2015 and in '16, nearly all of the prominent Republican presidential candidates," Hamburger said.

Butina has been indicted on conspiracy charges and acting as a foreign agent. She's also accused of using sex and deception to forge connections. Butina's attorney say she was not a spy, and has been cooperating.

Alleged Russian agent offered sex to make political connections, feds say
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