In case you missed it, today Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) sent a new letter to the NRA’s general counsel, asking the NRA to clearly answer questions about the “possibility that Russian actors funneled foreign funds into NRA electioneering activity,” and calling it a “matter of national security, campaign finance law, and American sovereignty.”
“In a letter to the NRA’s top lawyer, Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon also asked whether the powerful gun lobby group can state firmly that it has “never wittingly or unwittingly” received money “from individuals or entities acting as conduits for foreign entities or interests.”
“Wyden first sent queries to the NRA in early February in response to a McClatchy report that the FBI was investigating whether Alexander Torshin, a top Kremlin central banker with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, had funneled money to the organization. The NRA gave an unusually early endorsement to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in May 2016 and became his biggest financial backer, spending $30 million on his behalf.
“The group forged particularly close ties to Torshin, who attended several of its national conventions, hosted senior NRA officials on a December 2015 trip to Moscow and founded a Russian gun rights group. Wyden pointed to published reports that the NRA delegation included Joe Gregory, a charter member of the NRA’s Golden Ring of Freedom program designed for individuals donating $1 million or more.
“In a brief reply on Feb. 15, NRA General Counsel John Frazer cited the organization’s “longstanding policy” prohibiting the use of money from foreigners – either individuals or entities – for election purposes in compliance with federal law. However, Frazer did not directly deny that the group had received any Russian money.
“The latest letter from Wyden probes deeper, seeking to determine whether the NRA hid Russian involvement by accepting financial assistance to nonpolitical accounts, freeing up other money for political activity.”
Wyden’s second letter comes just days after a stunning report by NPR uncovered new ties between NRA leadership and Alexander Torshin. Specifically, NPR reported that Torshin had personal relationships with at least four NRA presidents, including every NRA president since mid-2011; attended five consecutive NRA conventions between 2012 and 2016; claimed that his ties to the NRA “opened access” for him to be an international election observer in Tennessee during the 2012 election and gain access “to any [polling] station”; and claimed to know President Donald Trump through his ties to the NRA.
Last Friday, NPR reporter Tim Mak appeared on MSNBC, alongside former CIA operative Evan McMullin and Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), to discuss his latest reporting on the NRA and Russia with MSNBC host Stephanie Ruhle: