Robert Mueller’s investigation is probing whether a key Kremlin figure with close ties with the National Rifle Association may have illegally funneled money through the gun-rights group to influence the 2016 election, according to a new McClatchy report.
In November 2016, ThinkProgress examined the NRA’s strange relationship with the leadership of Right to Bear Arms, a Moscow-based pro-gun organization run by a twenty-something activist named Maria Butina and her close friend and boss, the deputy governor of the Russian central bank, Alexander Torshin.
Although the NRA promotes gun rights as a defense against tyranny, it had surprisingly close ties to Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian regime. Torshin, who is an NRA Life Member, had attended multiple NRA national conventions in the United States and NRA board member and former national president David Keene, NRA First Vice President Pete Brownell, NRA funder Dr. Arnold Goldschlager and his daughter, NRA Women’s Leadership Forum executive committee member Hilary Goldschalger; Outdoor Life channel head Jim Liberatore, and former Milwaukee County Sheriff and NRA supporter David A. Clarke all braved the biting Moscow winter to attend 2015 event hosted by The Right to Bear Arms.
While many national conservative organizations in 2016 largely eschewed direct support for Donald Trump and focused their efforts on down-ballot races, more than any other national organization, the NRA went all-in to elect Trump. The group spent at least $30 million in “independent expenditures” to support him and to attack Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and did not disclose its donors.
McClatchy reported on Thursday that multiple sources say the FBI’s counterintelligence investigators are now examining whether Torshin, who has been accused by Spanish authorities of money laundering, may have provided some of those funds. Federal law prohibits foreign governments and citizens from spending money to influence federal elections. A spokesman for Mueller, the special prosecutor investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, declined to comment to McClatchy on the report.