The question unfolds against the backdrop of special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, releasing findings on Friday that added to speculation of Trump’s wrongdoing. A part of Mueller’s investigation involves potential collusion between Russia and Trump’s presidential campaign.
Maria Butina agreed on Monday to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the law governing foreign agents operating in the United States. Federal prosecutors accused the 30-year-old suspected Russian spy of operating a secret campaign to use influential conservatives to achieve Russia’s goals, partly through her infiltration of the National Rifle Association (NRA).
After Butina was charged in July, it came to light that Clarke, while still serving as Milwaukee County sheriff, traveled to Russia in 2015 on an NRA trip that was paid for by a group Butina founded, WITI-TV reported.
The Justice Department and FBI led the counterintelligence investigation, but it was separate from Mueller’s probe. However, the special prosecutor could also be interested in interviewing conservatives like Clarke, who was a Trump ally during the president’s campaign.
The Right to Bear Arms, the organization started by the Russian agent, spent at least $6,000 on the former sheriff’s meals, lodging, and transportation expenses. Clarke took pictures with Butina, too. In one group photo, they posed in front of a sign that read, “Welcome to Russia comrades.”
Clarke was one of Trump’s most loyal Black supporters during the presidential campaign, but it was unclear if he was a conduit between Trump and Russia.
After Trump won the election, Clarke was a candidate for an administration position that was reportedly frustrated by White House Chief of staff John Kelly, who eventually fell out of favor with Trump and ousted from his post.
Eventually, Clarke landed a senior adviser and spokesman position with the Pro-Trump super PAC America First Action.
While speculation swirled over Clarke’s ties to the Russian agent, she was awaiting approval for her plea deal from a judge. The bargain stipulated that she must cooperate with authorities in exchange for a short prison term.