Sep 27, 2019

Senate Finance Democrats say NRA acted as Russian asset in 2016 lead-up

Photo: Matt McClain for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee say the National Rifle Association acted as a Russian asset during the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election, offering the promise of political access to elected officials in the U.S. in exchange for business deals, per the findings of an 18-month investigation.

Why it matters: Tax-exempt organizations are barred from using funds for the personal benefit of their officials, or for actions significantly outside their stated missions. The revelations in the report raise questions about whether the NRA could face civil penalties or the loss of its tax-exempt status.

Details: The report claims top NRA officials used the organization's resources to endear 2 Russian nationals with the promise of lucrative business opportunities with Russian entities, including access to people and businesses under sanction by the U.S.

  • The 2 Russians, Alexander Torshin, deputy governor of the country's central bank, and Maria Butina, his assistant, promised NRA officials they had access to top Russian officials.
  • The report focuses on a 2015 trip to Moscow — organized by former NRA president David Keene and his wife, Donna — in which Torshin and Butina brought NRA officials to Moscow.
  • Butina was sentenced to 18 months in prison in April after she was charged for what the U.S. government described as a years-long campaign to infiltrate American politics on behalf of the Kremlin.

The other side: The Finance Committee's Republican majority reviewed documents gathered by their Democratic counterparts and issued their own report, which says the NRA did nothing wrong.

  • The document says the majority report "reads more like a political document directed at an organization well known in U.S. politics to be despised by Democrats."
  • Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said in a statement that the minority's report ignores context, like the fact that the Obama administration once called for a "reset" to improve relations with Russia.

Go deeper

Senate Democrats refer NRA for IRS investigation into Russia ties

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Finance Committee chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) on Wednesday formally requested that the IRS investigate the National Rifle Association for potential violations of tax law related to its interactions with Russian nationals.

The big picture: A report by Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee alleged that the NRA acted as a Russian asset in 2016 by offering a promise of access to elected U.S. officials in exchange for business deals. The revelations raise questions about whether the NRA could lose its tax-exempt status, as tax exempt organizations are not allowed to use funding to personally benefit their officials or for actions significantly outside their stated mission.

Go deeper: The findings from Senate Democrats' report on the NRA

Senate Intel releases 2nd volume of report on 2016 Russian interference

Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

The Senate Intelligence Committee released Tuesday the second volume of its report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, which focuses on the social media disinformation campaign led by the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency.

Why it matters: The report, which provides further bipartisan evidence of Russia's election meddling in 2016, finds "the IRA sought to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election by harming Hillary Clinton’s chances of success and supporting Donald Trump at the direction of the Kremlin."

Go deeperArrowOct 8, 2019

NYT: Trump met with NRA chief for financial support

Trump and LaPierre meet to discuss the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court in 2017. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump met with Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the National Rifle Association, on Friday to discuss how the gun advocacy group "could provide financial support for the president’s defense as he faces political headwinds, including impeachment," the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: "... in return for the support, Mr. LaPierre asked that the White House 'stop the games' over gun control legislation, people familiar with the meeting said," according to the NYT.

Go deeperArrowSep 27, 2019