NEW YORK – Nearly three weeks after the Washington Post published a blockbuster report, which documented alarming – and growing – ties between leaders of the National Rifle Association and Russia, the NRA is still refusing to comment or answer basic questions raised by the Post’s reporting.
The Post’s report uncovered how, around the same time Russia began a covert campaign to meddle in the presidential election, NRA leaders had “forged ties with well-connected Russians and come to see that country’s authoritarian leader, Vladimir Putin, as a potential ally.”
Takeaways from the Washington Post report:
- In 2011, then-NRA president David Keene began a friendship with a Russian Senator named Alexander Torshin, a close Putin ally who is now the Deputy Director of the Russian Central Bank.
- In 2013, Torshin began building a pro-gun movement in Russia, with the help of Maria Butina, the founder of the Russian gun rights organization “The Right To Bear Arms.” Torshin and Butina invited Keene and other NRA leaders to the organization’s annual 2013 meeting.
- Butina and Torshin attended the NRA’s annual conventions in 2014 and 2015, obtaining close access to NRA officials, and, later, a face-to-face with Donald Trump.
- In 2015, around the time the Russians began to ramp up their campaign to influence the 2016 election, and the NRA began its own $50 million campaign toward the election, the NRA sent a delegation to Moscow to meet with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, a sanctioned Russian official and top Putin aide who runs Russia’s defense industry. Butina was part of the same meeting.
- In February 2017, a meeting between President Trump and Torshin, in advance of the National Prayer Breakfast, was cancelled when “reports surfaced from Spanish authorities alleging that Torshin led an organized crime and money-laundering operation.”
- Butina now has a residence in Washington, and since the conclusion of the 2016 election has described herself as a go-between, between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia.
The whole report raises a number of questions, but when confronted by the Washington Post, “neither Keene nor Torshin responded to requests for comment. An NRA spokesman also did not respond to questions.”
It’s now been nearly three weeks since the Post filed its story, and the NRA still has not answered basic questions about their relationship with Russia, and Russian officials.
FIVE QUESTIONS FOR NRA LEADERSHIP ON RUSSIA TIES:
1. Does the NRA invest in Russian-owned entities, or have NRA officials advised Russian gun rights organizations?
2. Given the NRA spent over $50 million on the 2016 elections, at a time it was expanding its outreach to Russia, did any of these funds come from Russian sources?
3. Does the NRA have a current position on U.S. sanctions against Russia, since the organization opposed sanctions in 2014?
4. Was the NRA involved in coordinating, financing or scheduling Bank of Russia Deputy Chairman Alexander Torshin’s cancelled meeting with President Trump in February 2017?
5. During the NRA’s 2015 trip to Moscow, NRA representatives met with Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Dmitry Rogozin – a sanctioned Russian official. Was the 2016 presidential election discussed?
STATEMENT FROM JOHN FEINBLATT, PRESIDENT OF EVERYTOWN FOR GUN SAFETY:
“It’s no surprise that the NRA is still refusing to answer questions about their deliberate outreach to Russia, but after nearly three weeks of silence, it is past time for them to start answering questions. While NRA leaders like to talk about carrying the mantle of freedom, it appears they have been quietly cozying up to Moscow’s authoritarian regime. This engagement with Russia is the latest data point that this group is not your grandfather’s NRA – it’s a political organization promoting a ‘guns everywhere’ agenda that puts the profits of gun manufacturers – no matter where they are based – ahead of public safety here in America. It’s time for the NRA to come clean on all of their engagement with Russian officials.”