It looks like the NRA may be in special counsel Robert Mueller’s crosshairs. His team apparently hopes to investigate the Trump campaign’s ties to the National Rifle Association during the 2016 presidential campaign.
The NRA lent its support to the Trump campaign almost from the very beginning and raised hundreds of millions of dollars, a staggering amount that set a record for the organization, Raw Story reports. A chunk of that $366 million haul — $19.2 million — was a donation by an anonymous benefactor.
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So Mueller’s team had a few questions for former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg.
“When I was interviewed by the special counsel’s office, I was asked about the Trump campaign and our dealings with the NRA,” Nunberg told CNN.
Specifically, the team wanted to find out more about how Trump and his campaign staff formed connections with the NRA and how that led to him speaking at the organization’s annual meeting in 2015, only a few months prior to announcing his presidential bid, CNN reports.
While Mueller’s team interviewed Nunberg in February of 2018, it has continued to raise questions about connections between the powerful gun-rights group and the campaign, even as recently as last month.
But even before Mueller was on the scene the NRA was being scrutinized by lawmakers for its massive financial support of Trump and its ties to Russian nationals.
One such national, Maria Butina, plead guilty in a D.C. federal court last month to allegedly engaging in a conspiracy against the U.S., and as part of her plea admitted she tried to infiltrate both the Republican Party and GOP circles in the hopes of impacting U.S. — Russia relations.
Also on her to-do list? Building relationships with powerful influencers within the NRA.
The NRA was the perfect conduit to access the GOP and Trump, said Michael McFaul, the former American Ambassador to Russia.
“She believed she was trying to meet people that may be close to a future president in Republican circles,” McFaul said. “The NRA is a logical choice there and she had success.”
She was working alongside Alexander Torshin, a prominent Russian central banker and politician. Torshin also happens to be a lifetime member of the NRA. He was sanctioned last year by the U.S. Treasury Department for his services within the Russian government.
“Nobody knows where he is today, by the way,” McFaul said. “Back then he was in the Putin circles. This idea of a back channel and influence and contacts is something I’ve seen when other Russian delegations had the same mandate.”
Sarah Kendzior, a Missouri-based journalist who’s covered the Trump administration extensively, called the NRA and Republicans in general “pathetic” for being easily tricked.
“It’s a pretty pathetic look for the NRA and Republicans that they are, on the one hand, easily manipulated, but also complicit,” said Kendzior, who is also an expert on authoritarian governments. “They are voluntary participants in this. They are people who will be indicted themselves for failing to register as foreign agents.”
In November, the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee asked the NRA to hand over crucial documents. The NRA has continued to remain mum on all of the investigations and allegations, Raw Story reports. But there’s almost certainly going to be more developing news stories on this, so stay tuned.
The video below features some of Nunberg’s comments and a panel discussion about the NRA’s questionable ties to Russia and Trump’s campaign in 2016.
Featured image by CNN via YouTube video