Senate Democrats’ Russia report suggests the Kremlin used the NRA to aid Trump

ThinkProgress reported on the National Rifle Association's odd relationship with Putin's regime back in November 2016.

Maria Butina, head of the Russian group Right to Bear Arms
Maria Butina, head of the Russian group Right to Bear Arms. CREDIT: YouTube screenshot

A preliminary report from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and other Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee about Russia’s attempts to aid Donald Trump in his 2016 campaign was released on Wednesday. Among its findings was that documents obtained “suggest the Kremlin used the National Rifle Association as a means of accessing and assisting Mr. Trump and his campaign.”

Back in 2016, ThinkProgress exclusively reported on the curious relationship between the NRA and its Russian counterpart, a Moscow-based group called “The Right to Bear Arms.” Its key players, twenty-something gun rights activist Maria Butina, and her boss, Russian central bank deputy governor Alexander Torshin, appeared at NRA events, hosted former NRA president David Keene and other organization officers in Moscow, and enjoyed access to Trump and his key campaign figures at events. 

Last December, the New York Times reported that their business partner, NRA activist and Trump supporter Paul Erickson, offered Trump’s team a meeting with Putin. A month later, McLatchy broke the news that the FBI was investigating the possibility that Russia may have illegally funneled money to support Trump via the NRA. The NRA has since acknowledged 20 Russian-tied donations, but denied any of their money went to its 2016 campaign efforts.

The Judiciary Democrats’ report noted that Torshin (“a Putin ally”), Butina, and intermediaries “repeatedly offered the campaign back channels to Russia and relayed requests from President Putin to meet with Mr. Trump. The Kremlin may also have used the NRA to secretly fund Mr. Trump’s campaign.”

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It notes that while this area needs examination, requests for documents and interviews were made to Butina, Erickson, and Keene, but that each has “refused to cooperate.”