Congress Outmaneuvers Trump & Announces Widespread New Russia Investigation

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Newly in the majority, House Democrats’ investigative efforts continue to expand. Now, Reps. Ted Lieu (Calif.) and Kathleen Rice (N.Y.) are looking at the National Rifle Association’s relationship with Russia. This week, ABC shared a letter they’d prepared to send to current National Rifle Association (NRA) CEO Wayne LaPierre requesting copies of all communications between NRA officials, staffers, and Russia-linked individuals along with information about any and all meetings and monetary transactions between those groups of individuals.

Their concern stems from a trip a number of individuals who are high-ranking in the gun rights advocacy organization took to Russia with the help of Maria Butina, who at the time was masquerading as simply a Russian concerned for gun rights but has since pleaded guilty to carrying on with an espionage scheme against the United States.

In response to scrutiny of the 2015 trip, on which NRA leaders met with Russians as high-ranking as Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the organization has sought to deny responsibility for the undertaking — although in reality, they did help support the travel. LaPierre was allegedly personally opposed to the trip at the time — but it still happened anyway.

Nicholas Perrine, who at least in 2016 was a special assistant to the president of the NRA, helped Butina coordinate travel plans for the NRA officials who went to Moscow, and the organization itself ultimately “paid some travel-related expenses,” according to a source speaking to ABC.

In light of the NRA’s misrepresentation of their position, Lieu and Rice are concerned that they’re lying about other points of their relationships with both Russia and the Trump campaign that have come under scrutiny.

As they put it:

‘We are disturbed by the lack of transparency the NRA has demonstrated surrounding the December 2015 trip to Moscow. Furthermore, we are concerned that this extends to other allegations that have been made against the organization as it relates to Russia.’

Some time ago at this point, reports circulated that federal authorities at both the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and FBI were looking into whether foreign money had illegally flowed from Russia into the NRA to help prop up the Trump presidential campaign. The organization ultimately spent more on Trump’s election bid then they’d spent on any other presidential election, ever.

The “investment” hasn’t particularly paid off, since besides the investigations they’re facing, they’re also struggling to keep revenue up. In 2017, their contributions and membership dues both plummeted by tens of millions of dollars.

They’re also facing an investigation in the Senate from Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden, sparked by similar concern to that raised by Lieu and Rice. Although Wyden didn’t offer specifics of what his office has uncovered in their own investigative efforts, the Senate Finance Committee’s ranking member asserted to ABC that:

‘It’s not credible for the NRA to claim they played no official role in the 2015 Moscow trip.’

The newest scrutiny on the organization comes as the walls continue to close around other key players in Trump’s world, too. His inaugural committee, for instance, has now faced subpoenas from federal investigators in New York and state authorities in New Jersey.

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