As the United States gets closer and closer to the 2018 midterm elections, the Russia investigation as led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller is continuing. Although there was at one point an assertion from the Trump team that the Mueller investigation would be closing up as 2018 dawned, previously unknown lines of inquiry have been revealed in the lead-up to and aftermath of the investigation entering its second year, which began in May.
One such new line of inquiry covers the question of whether the National Rifle Association was used during the 2016 U.S. presidential race to funnel Russian support to the Donald Trump campaign. As another piece of that puzzle, McClatchy has now revealed that during the 2016 U.S. election season, top executives at the NRA met with prominent Russians in Moscow itself, including individuals who are at present themselves sanctioned and are associated with at least one prominent target of U.S. sanctions.
The interactions between NRA leadership and the Russian individuals in question unfolded thanks to the connections of Alexander Torshin to the NRA. Torshin is at present the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank; for years, he and his assistant Maria Butina have cultivated ties to the NRA. He touted the fact in 2016 that he and Butina were the only Russian lifetime members of the staunchly pro-gun group.
As a part of the operations of a gun rights group founded back in Russia by Torshin and Butina called Right To Bear Arms, the now sanctioned Torshin brought NRA board member and former President David Keene to Moscow in December 2015 to meet with a number of notable Russian individuals alongside some of Keene’s NRA associates.
Those with whom Keene and others met include Dmitry Rogozin, who has long maintained a prominent position in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government, and Sergei Rudov, who leads a charity affiliated with the Russian Orthodox Church called the St. Basil the Great Charitable Foundation.
Rogozin himself has been under U.S. sanctions since 2014 for support of Russian aggression in the Crimean peninsula of Ukraine, and Rudov’s charity was founded by an individual who has been under U.S. sanction since the same point for the same reason, Konstantin Malofeev.
Atlantic Council fellow Anders Aslund was severely taken aback at the NRA meeting with Rogozin, a meeting that’s been documented by photographs McClatchy viewed and the testimony of an anonymous source.
‘I can’t understand the NRA meeting with Rogozin since he was sanctioned in 2014. It’s so embarrassing.’
Whether an explanation for the meeting entails the NRA having been roped in as a component of the Russian efforts to influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election remains to be seen.
Were investigators to definitively conclude that such was the case, it would add yet another weight dragging down the reputation of the long controversial organization.
To be sure, some investigators — Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, to be exact — have already indicated that such is the direction they believe the evidence to be leading.
Earlier this year, McClatchy itself reported that the NRA was under investigation by federal authorities for possibly having facilitated money being funneled through Torshin to prop up their massive efforts on behalf of Donald Trump. Torshin has already been implicated in efforts to use his connections to the NRA to set up an eventual meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, so how far that thread goes remains to be seen.
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