Report Links NRA to Russian Collusion
Updated: Jun 9, 2022
A 2019 report by the Senate Finance Committee unveiled ties between the National Rifle Association and Russian nationals Maria Butina and Alexander Torshin, who infiltrated American conservative political groups to promote Russian interests. The report, which can be read here, confirms that the NRA acted as a “foreign asset” for Russian officials to interfere with American freedom and democracy in the 2016 election.
The report, presented by Senator Ron Wyden, the Ranking Member of Senate Finance Committee at the time, was based on an 18 month investigation initially conducted in response to reports of potential improper financial contributions by the NRA and their role in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Butina and Torshin collude in American politics
According to the report, the NRA was aware that both Butina and Torshin were connected to the Russian government. Butina was arrested in July 2018 in Washington, D.C. and charged with conspiracy to act as an agent of the Russian Federation within the United States, while Torshin is a former Russian government official, currently sanctioned by the U.S.
Despite this, NRA funds were used to cover membership and registration fees for Butina and Torshin to construct connections with American conservative political groups including the Council for National Policy and Safari Club International, as well as to attend events in 2015 and 2016 such as the National Prayer Breakfast.
NRA sponsors Russia trip
Tax-exempt organizations, such as the NRA, are prohibited from utilizing their funds to benefit individuals within the organization, or for reasons that are not categorized as being within the scope of their stated missions.
The investigation suggests that the NRA broke tax laws by sponsoring a 2015 trip to Russia for key figures in the organization to promote their personal business ventures, rather than using funds to support the Second Amendment rights group’s mission to “preserve the core of our American values and traditions.”
Pete Brownell, former NRA president, who was vice president at the time of the trip, expressed in a business email to a staff member at his personal firearms supply business that the trip was “an opportunity to be hosted in Russia to broaden our business opportunities…to introduce our company to the governing individuals throughout Russia.”
This trip also aided the Russian nationals in their attempts to interfere with American politics. Butina wrote in an email to NRA staff members that one of the objectives for the 2015 trip to Moscow was for Torshin to bring NRA leaders to Moscow to “prove his American connections.”
Report refutes NRA attempts to conceal funds
While the NRA repeatedly denied that the trip was authorized by the group, in a letter from former NRA president Allan Cors to Torshin, Cors assigned leaders from the trip. “Dave Keene and Joe Gregory will represent the NRA and our five million members better than anyone else,” Cors wrote, indicating his sponsorship of the trip.
Further, the NRA attempted to hide their expenses from the trip. The report found that Brownell spent $21,000 on the trip to Russia, and was reimbursed by the NRA for the same amount in June 2016. Then, in 2018, Brownell paid the NRA $17,000, money that, according to Brownell’s lawyer, was requested by the NRA to “[get] the trip off the NRA’s books.”