2019 Senate Report: NRA Was 'Foreign Asset' To Russia Ahead of 2016 Election
A Senate investigation into the National Rifle Association concluded last year that the NRA acted as a “foreign asset” for Russia leading up to the 2016 presidential election, according to NPR.
Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) revealed the findings of the investigation in September, which was the result of reviewing “contemporaneous emails and private interviews” over an 18-month period by the Senate Finance Committee’s Democratic staff.
They found that “the NRA underwrote political access for Russian nationals Maria Butina and Alexander Torshin more than previously known — even though the two had declared their ties to the Kremlin.”
Wyden noted at the time that the report could have legal implications for the NRA, as the organization held tax-exempt status and was therefore “barred from using funds for the personal benefit of its officials, or for actions significantly outside their stated missions.”
The report largely centered around Butina and Torshin and their efforts to make inroads among conservative groups and political circles in the United States. NRA officials catered to the Russian pair, at times even providing funding for their activities, according to the report.
The investigation also uncovered email evidence that NRA officials were aware of Butina and Torshin’s connections to the Kremlin and intention to infiltrate the Republican Party.
In one email to NRA staffers, Butina said the purpose of the 2015 NRA Moscow trip was that "many powerful figures in the Kremlin are counting on Torshin to prove his American connections" by showing he could bring prominent NRA officials to Russia.
Butina also suggested she could possibly arrange a meeting between the NRA officials and "Russia's highest leader,” President Vladimir Putin.
She also made clear her interest in connecting with Republican politicians, asking in one email to an NRA employee, "is there a list of U.S. governors or members of Congress that might be present at some time during the [NRA] annual meeting?"
Despite all of the red flags, the NRA continued to assist Butina and Torshin with their efforts.
"NRA resources appear to have been used to pay for membership and registration fees to third party events for [Torshin and Butina] as well as to arrange for transit to and lodging for many of those events throughout 2015 and 2016," the report said.
"The totality of evidence uncovered during my investigation, as well as the mounting evidence of rampant self-dealing, indicate the NRA may have violated tax laws," Wyden said of the findings. "The IRS needs to examine these findings and investigate other publicly reported incidents of potential lawbreaking."