Dusty Johnson reacts to hearing Russian agent had South Dakota ties
Federal prosecutors say a Russia woman has been trying to infiltrate American political groups for the last year and a half on behalf of the Russian government.
Maria Butina has several ties to South Dakota. The 29-year-old started a business in Sioux Falls called Bridges LLC. Paul Erickson, a Republican activist, is listed as an agent on the Secretary of State's website. When we went to speak with Erickson, no one answered the door.
Butina also gave speeches at the University of South Dakota and the Academy of Finance in Sioux Falls. She also spoke at the South Dakota teenage republicans camp in 2015.
The U.S. House Candidate Dusty Johnson hosted the camp that year. He says that he had no idea Butina was a suspected Russian agent.
"I don't think anybody, I don't think the University of South Dakota, I don't think the schools in Sioux Falls, and any of the other groups ever imagined that this could be a Russian agent," he said.
Across the state, Butina spoke to hundreds of students about entrepreneurship, women, and gun rights in Russia.
"The reality was it took the CIA, the U.S. Department of Justice years to find out what Ms. Butina was up to," Johnson said. "I don't think any reasonable person would think after a 25-minute speech that those folks at that summer camp would have an understanding that she was apparently a Russian agent."
Johnson says countless members of the House of Representatives spoke with Butina. He is upset with how she continued to scam people across the nation.
Butina was arrested Sunday and charged with conspiracy to act as an unregistered agent of the Russian government.
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