Maria Butina, the Russian national charged with conspiracy to act as an agent of Russia within the US, interacted with a former Trump campaign aide in the run-up to the 2016 election, The Washington Post reported Friday.
According to documents and testimony provided to the Senate Intelligence Committee and described to the newspaper, Butina "sought out interactions" with the aide, J.D. Gordon, who had served as the director of national security to the Trump campaign before departing in August 2016 and being offered a position in the early Trump transition team effort.
The newspaper reported that Gordon "anticipated joining the presidential transition team" and the revelation of his interactions with Butina shows she was "in closer contact with President Trump's orbit than was previously known."
Butina and Gordon were in contact over email in September and October 2016, the newspaper reported. According to the Post, Gordon extended invitations to Butina to attend a concert in Washington and to his birthday party in October 2016.
Gordon and an attorney for Butina downplayed the interactions in statements to the Post.
"From everything I've read since her arrest last month, it seems the Maria Butina saga is basically a sensationalized click bait story meant to smear a steady stream of Republicans and NRA members she reportedly encountered over the past few years," Gordon said, asking, "I wonder which prominent Republican political figures she hasn't come across?"
Robert Driscoll, an attorney for Butina, said, "A military guy who had been involved would have been a prime target, if that's what she was about." He added, "But the evidence is clear that there wasn't any significant contact."
Driscoll has previously denied the allegation that Butina acted as a Russian agent.
A spokesperson for the Senate Intelligence Committee and Jay Sekulow, an attorney for Trump, declined to comment to the newspaper.