Did the National Rifle Association take money from a Kremlin-linked Russian banker, in order to support Donald Trump’s presidential campaign? According to McClatchy, that’s what the FBI is now investigating. It is illegal to accept money from foreign citizens for a US election campaigns.
The NRA was Trump’s biggest donor, and spent some $54 million on the 2016 general election, pouring money into radio and television ads that cast Hillary Clinton and Democrats as a threat to the Second Amendment and national security. Since the election, the NRA has rolled out a series of divisive, nationalistic ads that seem designed to stoke fear and fury in viewers.
Meanwhile, US intelligence agencies, including Trump’s own hand-picked officials, say that a Russian influence campaign intended to influence the election had several similar aims: Putin had “a clear preference for President-elect Trump,” and Russian propaganda was supposed to “denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.” A Congressional investigation afterward found that the Russian propaganda campaign’s aim was to “sow chaos” in the United States, and to emphasize and exacerbate divisions in American society.
The relationship between the pro-gun group and the Russian banker, Alexander Torshin, goes back years.
Whether by design or accident, the NRA’s talking points align incredibly well with the main thrust of the Russian influence campaign waged during the 2016 election. Can you pick which of the quotes below came from the NRA, and which came from Russian propaganda?
1. They use their movie stars and singers and comedy shows and award shows to repeat their narrative over and over again.
2. We must not sacrifice national security to satisfy the demands of minorities.
3. Another gruesome attack on police by a BLM movement activist.
4. Hillary [Clinton] will lie about anything to get elected.
5. Hillary Clinton is the co-author of Obama’s anti-police and anti-Constitutional propaganda.
6. Racial hatred is “being forced on the American culture by the Black Lives Matter crowd.”
Answers: NRA 1, 4, 6. Russian propaganda 2, 3, 5.
1. The quote comes from an NRA ad released last year that was focused specifically on dividing America. As Quartz wrote then, it painted Democrats, as well as “mainstream media, teachers, actors, singers, comedians, protestors, people of color, women, queer people, and immigrants as ‘the other,'” a tactic that’s been used for centuries.
The ad even seemed to advocate that Americans take up arms against each other, advocating that we “fight this violence of lies with a clenched fist of truth.”
3. Russian propaganda. This comes from a Facebook group called “Being Patriotic” which organized more than a dozen pro-Trump rallies around the country before the general election, and had over 200,000 followers. Facebook shut down the group as part of its purge of accounts run by the Internet Research Agency, a Russian troll factory run by a former intelligence official the US government says (pdf pg. 4) is close to Putin.
4. An NRA ad from the 2016 campaign.
5. Russian propaganda, also from “Being Patriotic.”
6. A guest on NRA’s streaming network said this in July of 2017, after the network’s host blamed Barack Obama for poor race relations, and said the US could see South Africa levels of violence.