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GOP lawmaker says newly-released Butina was jailed due to ‘Russophobia’

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) on Friday decried “Russophobia” while blasting what he called a “ridiculously long” prison term for Maria Butina, the Russian who pleaded guilty in December to conspiring to act as a foreign agent and was released from jail on Friday.

“She served a ridiculously long sentence essentially for not filing the right paperwork. But now she is free. Sadly, she was jailed to satiate the rampant Russophobia in the US these days. We are better than this,” Massie tweeted.

Butina’s lawyer Robert Driscoll told The Hill in an email that Butina was released from a prison in Tallahassee, Fla., into the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). She is expected to be deported to Russia. 

She was arrested last year and sentenced to 18 months in prison after admitting to working with a Russian official and two Americans to infiltrate the National Rifle Association in an attempt to influence U.S. policy toward Russia.

Butina had served more than 15 months behind bars before her release Friday. Her attorney told Reuters that while she was scheduled for release in early November, a change in federal law allowed her release date to be pushed up based on good behavior.

The judge in the case said earlier this year that Butina’s conduct “was no mere failure” to register as a foreign agent, saying she was able to establish contacts in the U.S. “precisely because she did not reveal herself to be a foreign agent.”

The judge also said Butina’s actions had the potential to “jeopardize national security.”

The Russian Embassy in Washington had demanded her release following her arrest last year, arguing she was being detained on “trumped-up charges.”

Massie has spoken out in defense of Butina before. In August, he tweeted that she should be released from prison, arguing authorities should instead jail former FBI Director James Comey.

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