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It’s Time for the NRA to Come Clean on Its Ties to Russia

The NRA can’t keep its story straight when it comes to Russian money or its ties to Russia.

For more than a year, the media have been uncovering alarming connections between NRA leaders and allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin: chiefly, Russian politician and banker Alexander Torshin, who wasrecently sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department; and his longtime aide Maria Butina, who reportedly claimed to have acted as a go-between between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election. Now, the FBI is reportedly investigating whether Torshin “illegally funnelled money to the National Rifle Association to help Donald Trump win the presidency” in 2016, when the NRA spent at least $55 million to elect the Trump-Pence ticket and its preferred candidates to Congress. The NRA has denied being contacted by the FBI about anything related to Russia, but now acknowledges that it received a total of more than $2,500 from at least two dozen Russia-linked contributors.

The relationship between NRA officials and Russia reportedly began in 2011, when the NRA’s then-President David Keene developed a friendship with Torshin. Shortly after, Torshin and Butina formed a Russian gun group modeled after the NRA called “Right to Bear Arms.” Since then, top NRA officials have made trips to Moscow to meet with Torshin, Butina and Russian government officials, and hosted Torshin and Butina at multiple NRA conventions.

At the 2014 NRA convention, attended by both Torshin and Butina, Butina was photographed meeting with NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre. Torshin reportedly chose the setting of the 2016 NRA convention to try to seek a meeting with then-candidate Trump or top Trump campaign officials. While at the 2016 NRA convention, Torshin reportedly spoke with Donald Trump Jr.

Since these revelations became public, the NRA has not explained why it sent delegations to Moscow or hosted Torshin and Butina at multiple NRA conventions. And the NRA’s answer on whether it has accepted Russia-linked money continues to evolve.

In March, the NRA claimed in a letter to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) that it had accepted no money from Russia-linked individuals or entities during the 2015-2016 period. Nine days later, it acknowledged that it had received a contribution from Torshin between 2012 and 2018. Later, in another letter to Sen. Wyden, the NRA acknowledged that it had taken at least $2,500 from no fewer than 23 Russian nationals or individuals associated with Russian addresses.

The NRA now says it is done answering questions. That’s unacceptable. The NRA needs to tell the full truth, explain its relationships with Putin’s allies, and reveal exactly how much money it has taken from Russia.

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