A secretive Christian political group alluded to in Monday’s criminal complaint against an alleged Russian agent sent a conservative Christian congressman on multiple trips to eastern European nations friendly with Russia, federal records show.
The Justice Department on Monday charged Mariia Butina, a Russian national, with infiltrating U.S. groups to covertly promote Russian interests. One group Butina is alleged to have worked with is the organization—unnamed in the supporting affidavit—behind the National Prayer Breakfast.
The 17-page affidavit includes several references to Butina’s dealings with organizers of the National Prayer Breakfast, an annual ritual for both parties in Washington. In one incident, Butina recounts thanking an unnamed organizer of the breakfast for meeting with her and another Russian official in Moscow. It also describes Butina noting that a Russian official suggested that Putin attend the National Prayer Breakfast in February of 2017 and that Putin did not say no.
In a later email, a National Prayer Breakfast organizer promised Butina that he would provide 10 seats at the 2017 event. She later emailed an organizer and thanked him for “the gift of you [sic] precious time during the National Prayer Breakfast week—and for the very private meeting that followed. A new relationship between two countries always begins better when it begins in faith.”
The National Prayer Breakfast is organized by The Fellowship Foundation, a Christian group based in Washington that is famously secretive. Its members take a vow of silence about Fellowship activities.
But federal records show the Fellowship has reported sponsoring 37 trips abroad by individual members of Congress in the last 18 years. Fourteen of those trips have been by Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), co-chair of the 2016 National Prayer Breakfast. Since 2008, Aderholt took 11 out of 17 trips sponsored by the Fellowship.
A number of countries to which the Fellowship sent Aderholt are in politically volatile or contested regions between Russia and NATO nations.