While Devin Nunes tries to mislead audiences about his memo, an actual document hunt in Washington could have far-reaching ramifications, both for the Russia investigation and national security writ large.
On Friday Sen. Ron Wyden. (D.-Ore.) wrote a pair of letters, obtained by ThinkProgress, to both Treasury Department head Steve Mnuchin and National Rifle Association Treasurer Wilson Phillips, Jr. First reported by AP, the letters demand any and all financial information pertaining to links between the NRA and Russian officials. The letters were prompted by a recent report from McClatchy noting that the FBI is investigating such links – especially as it pertains to the $30 million the NRA funneled to the Donald Trump campaign, money that came from an NRA arm that isn’t forced to disclose its donors.
In his letter to Mnuchin, Wyden noted that the “national security as well as legal implications of these reports make it imperative that Congress conduct a thorough investigation.” Wyden specifically requested documents “relevant to financial links between the NRA and its associate entities” and Russian officials, as well as documents “related to shell companies or other illicit funding mechanisms suspected of being connected to these reported links.”
His letter to Phillips struck a similar vein, noting that “Russian-backed shell companies or intermediaries may have circumvented laws designed to prohibit foreign meddling in our elections.” As such, Wyden was requesting “all documents related to any remuneration, transaction, or contribution” between Russia and the NRA – including, interestingly, “real estate ownership documentation[.]”
The burgeoning NRA-Russian links have been one of the stranger spurs of ongoing links between Russian actors and American conservatives, ranging from Trump to evangelicals to white nationalists. Not only have NRA higher-ups sought meetings with Russian officials currently sanctioned by the U.S., but, most strikingly, the NRA’s Russian counterparts financed a 2015 trip that saw notorious Sheriff David Clarke posing in Moscow.
Red Square near the Kremlin with a Russian officer. Met earlier with Russian Foreign Minister who spoke on Mid East. pic.twitter.com/ZcDdQB65lb
— David A. Clarke, Jr. (@SheriffClarke) December 10, 2015
Beyond the obvious concerns about Russia funneling money via the NRA to prop Trump’s campaign – as well as Russia’s attempts to use NRA links to lobby on Moscow’s behalf – the Russia-NRA ties also circle on Alexander Torshin, a Russian national who, according to Spanish investigators, had previously laundered funds in Spain for the Russian mafia. Indeed, Wyden made sure to cite Torshin specifically in his letter to Mnuchin, asking specifically for “documents relevant to financial links between the NRA and its associate entities and Mr. Torshin.”