Walker Had 2015 Encounter With Woman Charged In Russia Probe

Maria Butina Posed For Photo With Walker, Attended His 2015 Presidential Campaign Kickoff

Scott Walker
Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0)

A woman charged by federal prosecutors with trying to exploit influential United States politicians on behalf of the Russian government interacted at least once with Gov. Scott Walker during his short-lived campaign for president.

A federal complaint unsealed Monday charged Maria Butina with working on behalf of the Russian Federation to “exploit personal connections with U.S. personas having influence in American politics in an effort to advance the interests of the Russian Federation.” Butina is the only person named in the complaint.

The charges against her were filed Saturday, the day after the U.S. Department of Justice charged 12 members of the Russian military with conducting “large-scale cyber operations” targeting Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee in an effort to influence the 2016 election.

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Butina’s complaint was unsealed just hours after President Donald Trump held a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, where Trump did not dispute Putin’s contention that the Russian government played no role in trying to influence the 2016 campaign.

Walker’s encounter with Butina had been reported previously by news organizations including Mother Jones and Rolling Stone, thanks to pictures posted by Butina on her social media pages.

In a blog post attributed to Butina from April 2015, she posted a picture of herself with Walker, writing that she “did not hear any aggression towards our country, the president or my compatriots.” She also posted a picture from July 2015 taken from the crowd at Walker’s official presidential campaign kickoff July 13, 2015.

Walker spokesman Brian Reisinger said the photo in question was one of thousands publicized in 2015 by Walker’s group “Our American Revival,” suggesting the interaction with Butina at the GOP event in question was nothing out of the ordinary.

“Gov. Walker never had a meeting,” Reisinger said. “Like other speakers at the event, Gov. Walker appeared in an atrium area while waiting to deliver his remarks, where event attendees had the chance to say hello. There were thousands of people at the convention and many of them approached the governor and asked to say hello and take a photo with him — just as people did at events today in Eau Claire, Sussex and Marinette.”

Butina’s connections to another Wisconsin politician were far more pronounced.

In late 2015, a group she ran helped pay for a delegation from the National Rifle Association to visit Russia. That delegation included former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke.