Russia used the NRA to influence the US election, Senate Democrats believe

The NRA’s booth at the Conservative Political Action Committee meeting.
The NRA’s booth at the Conservative Political Action Committee meeting.
Image: Reuters/Joshua Roberts
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Russia didn’t just interfere in the 2016 US presidential election; it used the National Rifle Association to do it, Democrats on a US Senate Committee alleged today.

The Senate Judiciary Committee on May 16 released more than 2,000 pages of documents related to its investigation into improper interference in the 2016 election, including transcripts and analysis of a dozen interviews. Democrats on the committee simultaneously released their own analysis of the information.

A “number of documents” suggest “the Kremlin used the National Rifle Association as a means of accessing and assisting Mr. Trump and his campaign,” the report from ranking member Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, says.

The report focuses on Alexander Torshin, a Putin ally and deputy governor of the Central Bank of Russia, and his assistant Maria Butina. During the campaign, Torshin, Butina, and their intermediaries “repeatedly offered the [Trump] campaign back channels to Russia and relayed requests from President Putin to meet with Mr. Trump,” the committee wrote. “The Kremlin may also have used the NRA to secretly fund Mr. Trump’s campaign.” The report says the matter “needs examination.”

The NRA spent over $11 million on pro-Trump advertising during the 2016 election, and almost another $20 million on anti-Hillary Clinton ads. Other Republicans also got a massive advertising boost from the NRA’s combined cash.

The second-biggest recipient of NRA cash, North Carolina senator Richard Burr, is the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee—which is also investigating interference in the election. Today, that committee separately confirmed an early 2017 US intelligence community report finding that Russia interfered to aid Trump. “There is no doubt Russia undertook an unprecedented effort to interfere” with the 2016 election, Burr said.