In case you missed it, NPR published a report that an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Alexander Torshin, who is reportedly being investigated by the FBI, has traveled throughout the United States starting as early as 2009 to cultivate ties with “figures on the American right” including NRA leaders, in ways “well beyond his formal role as a member of the Russian legislature and later as a top official at the Russian central bank.”
Torshin began a friendship with former NRA president David Keene in 2011. Shortly after, Torshin began traveling to NRA conventions, of which he attended five in a row. Torshin was recently sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department and is reportedly at the center of an FBI probe into “whether Russian money went to [the] NRA to help Trump” in 2016. The NRA has denied being contacted by the FBI about anything related to Russia.
From Steve Hall, retired CIA Chief of Russian Operations:
“They reach out to guy like Torshin and say, ‘Hey, can you make contact with the NRA and some other conservatives… so that we can have connectivity from Moscow into those conservative parts of American politics should we need them?’ And that’s basically just wiring the United States for sound, if you will, in preparation for whatever they might need down the road.”
“The fact that Torshin has now been personally sanctioned… is an indication that the administration… has seen, probably, intelligence reporting on Torshin and his background, and perhaps what the plans and intentions of the Russian government vis-a-vis Mr. Torshin,” Hall told NPR. “It shows that our system… is doing its job in informing policymakers about the dangers of somebody like Torshin.”
From Daniel Fried, former U.S. State Department coordinator for sanctions policy:
“We can conclude that the administration thought he was acting to advance Putin’s malign agenda, but what precisely [he did] they did not make clear,” said Daniel Fried, a former State Department coordinator for sanctions policy who helped craft the sanctions that ultimately were employed against Torshin.
“Torshin’s trips took him to Alaska, where he requested a visit with former Gov. Sarah Palin; to the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C.; to Nashville, where he was an election observer for the 2012 presidential race; and to every NRA convention, in various American cities, between 2012 and 2016.
“But the jig is up. Last month, Torshin was designated for sanctions by the U.S. Treasury Department.”