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One Year Ago: “FBI Investigating Whether Russian Money Went to NRA to Help Trump”

One year ago, McClatchy reported that the FBI was investigating whether a Russian banker with close ties to Vladimir Putin and the NRA funneled money into the NRA in order to support President Donald Trump’s election campaign in 2016. The NRA was Trump’s biggest outside financial backer during the 2016 election, spending more than $30 million to support him.

And it’s only gotten worse for the NRA since:

  • A few weeks after the McClatchy story was published, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) sent letters to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and the NRA’s treasurer requesting documents indicating any possible financial ties between Russia and the NRA.
  • In April 2018, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctioned Russian central banker, Alexander Torshin, who McClatchy reported was key to the FBI probe into “whether Russian money went to [the] NRA to help Trump.”

  • Torshin has been connected to the NRA since at least 2011, when Torshin and then-NRA president David Keene formed a friendship. Torshin attended six consecutive NRA conventions between 2011 and 2016.
  • Also in April, an NPR report revealed that the NRA accepted contributions from more than 20 Russian-linked people or entities since 2015.
  • Torshin’s longtime aide, Maria Butina, a Russian national and purported lifetime NRA member, was arrested, charged and plead guilty to “conspiracy to act as an agent of the Russian Federation within the United States without prior notification to the attorney general” while allegedly using the NRA in order to advance the Kremlin’s agenda.

  • After Butina was arrested, BuzzFeed reported that financial transactions by her, Torshin, and an NRA-linked GOP political operative, Paul Erickson, were being scrutinized by both the Special Counsel’s office and the Senate Intelligence Committee as part of their investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
  • And last week, a U.S. intelligence report revealed by the Daily Beast detailed how Maria Butina and Alexander Torshin worked to infiltrate the NRA with the explicit approval of the Kremlin.

Since Butina’s arrest six months ago, the NRA has issued no public comment about its relationship with Butina and ties to Russia. The NRA spent $55 million – or perhaps more than $70 million, according to McClatchy — to influence the 2016 elections. That’s far more than the group ever spent during a previous election. But the NRA does not have to disclose all of its donors, making it difficult to tell where the majority of the money came from.

If you’re interested in more information on the NRA and its ties to Russia, don’t hesitate to reach out.