In March, the National Rifle Association told ABC News that they received one contribution from Alexander Torshin, totaling less than $1000 during the 2012-2018 election cycle.
Today, we learn that the number of Russian contributors jumped to 23 since 2015. The discrepancy was revealed in a letter addressed to Congress, after Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) requested the information months ago.
The revelation was included in a letter to Sen. Ron Wyden, who’s probing the NRA's Russia ties amid an FBI investigation into whether the country funneled money to the gun group in an attempt to influence the 2016 presidential election. https://t.co/qijl73Tde6
— The Trace (@teamtrace) April 11, 2018
John Frazer, the general counsel for the gun rights group, wrote via Newsweek:
The money totaled $2,500, with most of it coming from subscriptions or membership dues, according to the letter, which was released Wednesday and first reported on by NPR. About $525 of that money came from “two individuals who made contributions to the NRA.”
The NRA said:
“[The 23 people] …May include U.S. citizens living in Russia.”
Alexander Torshin’s contributions are particularly relevant since a January report indicated that FBI was investigating if he, as the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank tied to the Kremlin was funneling money through the NRA to support Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
Axios reported that Torshin is known as:
“[The] ‘godfather’ in a Russian organized crime syndicate known as Taganskaya.”
Torshin has denied any connections to organized crime and has been a “life member” of the NRA since 2012.
Following the new disclosure to Congress, the NRA’s general counsel, John Frazer, said that would be all the information they would provide Congress on the matter. Frazer said the request from Wyden was “overbroad, “extraordinarily time-consuming,” and would be too burdensome to fulfill.
“It is not feasible for the NRA or any non-profit to respond to such an overbroad request. Therefore, given the extraordinarily time-consuming and burdensome nature of your requests, we must respectfully decline to engage in this beyond the clear answers we have already provided.”
An aide for Wyen indicated they didn’t believe the response to be adequate, and that Wyden would refer the matter to the Federal Elections Commission. The letter listed records starting in 2015, but Wyden:
“Specifically asked for material back to the beginning of 2012.”
The aide also says that the NRA:
“…Avoided detailing what measures it takes to vet donations, including from shell companies, a known means for Russians to funnel money into the United States.”
The NRA contributed more to the Trump campaign than any other group, spending $30 million during the campaign. The total the NRA spent on Trump and other Republican candidates could have been as high as $70 million.
President Trump’s new National Security Adviser, John Bolton, appeared in a video to promote “Right to Bear Arms,” the Russian gun-rights group that Torshin and his protogé, Maria Butina founded.
Strangely, gun rights are not something enjoyed in President Vladimir Putin’s Russia, yet he apparently allowed Torshin to promote the group in the United States, where he met with Donald Trump Jr. in May 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky.
See the letter from the NRA to Congress below:
The NRA received about $2,512 from 23 people with Russian addresses since 2015, an attorney for the firearms lobby said in a letter released by Senator Wyden https://t.co/z9KF0GP35y @polly pic.twitter.com/nZPRzu5A03
— David S. Joachim (@davidjoachim) April 11, 2018
See Trump talk directly to Torshin’s protege, Maria Butina at the “FreedomFest” in Las Vegas in 2015. He indicated doing away with sanctions on Russia.
Featured image By The Ministry of Telecom and Mass Communications of the Russian Federation. Via Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA-3.0.