The FBI is reportedly investigating whether Russian money was funneled through the National Rifle Association to help Donald Trump become President.
The FBI probe centers on whether Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank who met with Donald Trump Jr. at the NRA’s 2016 convention, illegally funneled money through a branch of the gun lobby that is not required to disclose donors to help the Republican win the presidency.
FBI counterintelligence investigators believe Torshin, who is known for his close relationships with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the NRA, violated federal laws that make it illegal to use foreign money to influence American elections.
Disclosure of the Torshin investigation signals a new dimension in the 18-month-old FBI probe of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, including whether the Kremlin colluded with Trump’s campaign.
A wide-ranging law enforcement and counterintelligence investigation that began looking into Russia’s political meddling before the start of the 2016 general election campaign, has sharpened its focus on whether the Kremlin secretly helped fund efforts to promote Trump.
Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s sweeping investigation into Russian election intervention has been heating up, but little information has been released in recent months as the former FBI director runs the independent probe strictly by the book.
Torshin, a lifetime NRA member who has attended several of its annual conventions, spoke to Donald Trump Jr. during the group’s national meeting in Kentucky in May 2016, when his father won an unusual early NRA presidential endorsement.
In November, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein sent letters to J.D. Gordon and Sam Clovis, asking the two senior Trump foreign policy aides for any communications related to the Moscow banker; the NRA; Maria Butina, a Torshin protege who ran a Russian pro-gun group, and others linked to Torshin.
Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and key adviser, denied an attempt by Torshin to arrange a personal meeting with the presidential candidate near the NRA convention site last May.
During the campaign, Trump suggested Hillary Clinton would the threaten the right to bear arms, joking at a rally in August 2016 that Second Amendment advocates would have to shoot her stop the appointment of Supreme Court justices who support gun control laws.
“If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do folks,” Trump said. “Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”
Most of the record $55 million NRA reported spending on the 2016 elections, including $30 million to support Trump, was spent by a division of the gun lobby that is not required to disclose donors.
Two sources close to the NRA said there was really $70 million in election spending because money flowing from Torshin to the powerful gun lobby could be concealed.
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