With the NRA finally talking to the media about its now-infamous trip to Moscow in 2015, below are new developments about the trip and the NRA’s involvement in planning it, including private emails that show that an NRA employee worked directly with Russian national and purported lifetime NRA member Maria Butina.
The 2015 trip has come under intense scrutiny since the arrest of Butina, who pled guilty to conspiracy last month after allegedly using the NRA to advance the Kremlin’s agenda.
To date, the NRA still has not publicly commented on the arrest or indictment of Butina.
1. On Monday, after months of refusing to answer questions about its relationship with Russia or Butina, the NRA tried to distance itself from the 2015 Moscow trip. An attorney for the NRA told Danny Hakim of the New York Times that NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre forbade staffers from joining a delegation of NRA board members and major donors to Russia in 2015, saying “Wayne was opposed to the trip.” The NRA’s president at the time, Allan Cors, said in a statement released through the NRA that “Wayne did not want any misconception that this was an official trip.” More information on the New York Times’ story is available here.
2. Less than 24 hours later, Pete Madden and Matthew Mosk at ABC News filed a story that appeared to contradict the NRA’s comments to the New York Times in which the NRA’s outside counsel suggested it wasn’t an official trip. ABC News obtained internal emails, which showed that the special assistant to the NRA President worked directly with Maria Butina to arrange logistics for the trip, including travel. Other emails indicate that the NRA paid for the delegation’s gifts to its Russian hosts. Photos obtained by ABC show that Butina welcomed the NRA delegation at the Moscow airport with a giant red banner which read “Welcome to Russia Comrads” [sic] and featured the NRA’s logo. More information on ABC News’ report is available here.
3. On Wednesday, Betsy Woodruff at The Daily Beast published emails from Butina’s boyfriend, NRA-linked GOP political operative Paul Erickson, in which Erickson indicated that the Moscow trip was planned with the explicit purpose of creating a bridge between the Russian government and the GOP through the NRA. Here’s an excerpt from one: “As we discussed over lunch in Iowa, Russia believes that high level contacts with the NRA might be the BEST means of neutral introduction to either the next American President OR to a meaningful re-set in relations with the Congress under a (God forbid) President Clinton.”
a. OUTSTANDING QUESTION: Who were these emails addressed to? Whoever received them had “previous discussions with Maria,” according to another Erickson email included in the Daily Beast’s report. That same individual would likely have known from Erickson’s email correspondence that the perceived purpose for the trip was the Russian government attempting to use the NRA to make inroads with the GOP.
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.