Monday, April 30, 2018

The NRA is Now a Russian Asset?

It's starting to sound like the NRA is up to its neck in Russian money.

The National Rifle Association is setting aside years of documents related to its interactions with a Kremlin-linked banker, as the gun-rights group appears to be bracing for a possible investigation, according to sources familiar with the situation.

The NRA has faced fresh scrutiny from congressional investigators about its finances and ties to Alexander Torshin, one of the 17 prominent Russian government officials the US Treasury Department recently slapped with sanctions. The gun-rights group has said it is reexamining its relationship with Torshin, who is a lifetime NRA member, in the wake of the sanctions.

The renewed attention has highlighted the close-knit if sometimes uneasy alliance between top NRA officials and Torshin -- a relationship that ensnared members of Trump's team during the presidential campaign, inviting further congressional scrutiny.

Those inquiries could shed light on the tightly held fundraising practices and political activities of the NRA. The political powerhouse shelled out more than $30 million in 2016 to back Donald Trump's candidacy -- more than it spent on 2008 and 2012 political races combined, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Vice President Mike Pence is slated to speak at the National Rifle Association's annual convention in Dallas next Friday, an official told CNN.

Could it be true that many millions of dollars from Russian sources flowed through the NRA and into organizing for Trump?

This is not new stuff: the Russians have spent over a decade buying into the National Rifle Association and even took "a high-level NRA delegation" on a week-long Moscow trip "that included meetings with influential Russian government officials."

The key figure in the NRA/Russia investigation, McClatchy reports, is Alexander Torshin. Torshin is a longtime Putin ally who previously served as a top Russian senator. He is now a deputy governor of Russia's central bank, where his purview includes cracking down on the outflow of dirty money.

That's ironic, because Torshin has been linked to money laundering. Bloomberg reported on the conclusions of a 2013 investigation by Spanish authorities, writing that "Alexander Torshin instructed members of the Moscow-based Taganskaya crime syndicate how to launder ill-gotten gains through banks and properties in Spain."

No comments: