Much of the focus on the NRA over the past week has remained, understandably, on the group’s response to the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida. However, the NRA has also recently been forced to shed some light on another controversy: its suspected ties to Russia.
Earlier this month, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) issued a pair of letters demanding information on any financial links between the NRA and Moscow, or between the NRA and Russian nationals. The questions came after McClatchy reported that the FBI was investigating whether Alexander Torshin — a Russian national who happens to be an NRA member, as well as the NRA’s main liaison in Russia — had used the NRA to funnel funds to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Torshin, described by The Daily Beast as a “Putin ally,” has a history of laundering Russian money in Europe, according to Spanish investigators.
Instead of answering Wyden’s request, however, the NRA issued a terse letter denying that it received any funds from Moscow specifically designed to influence the election.
“As a longstanding policy to comply with federal election law, the NRA and its related entities do not accept funds from foreign persons or entities in connection with United States elections,” NRA secretary and general counsel John Frazer wrote to Wyden. Frazer added that the FBI has not contacted the NRA, and that McClatchy’s coverage “refers to an investigation of Mr. Torshin — not of the NRA.”
As it is, the letter is not an outright denial that the NRA has received funding from foreign entities like the Kremlin. It does not address the notorious trip NRA higher-ups took to Moscow in late 2015. It does not mention the provenance of the $30 million the NRA funneled to Trump’s campaign — money that stemmed from an arm of the NRA that isn’t forced to disclose its donors.
If anything, the letter doesn’t actually answer any of the questions Wyden initially issued, which focused on any Russian funding wholesale, not just funding limited to the election. (Nor does the letter mention Russians’ attempts to use the NRA to lobby the White House.) A Wyden aide told ThinkProgress that the senator “is reviewing the NRA’s response and considering additional follow-up questions.”
Wyden also issued a separate letter to the Treasury Department requesting documents pertaining to ties between Russia and the NRA — especially as it pertains to “shell companies or other illicit funding mechanisms suspected of being connected to these reported links.” The Treasury Department hasn’t yet replied to Wyden’s request.