Russia infiltrate the NRA? Did the NRA launder Russian money for
Trump? If the answer to these questions is yes, then the problem of
guns in America—and why we can’t seem to discuss it,
address it or solve it–starts to make more sense.
FBI is investigating whether a Russian banker, mafia boss and
politician with close ties to Vladimir Putin illegally funneled
millions to the NRA to help Trump win the presidency. Alexander
Torshin, a former Russian senator with connections to the Kremlin, is
the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank—and a
lifetime NRA member, as reported by McClatchy.
a gun enthusiast, has attended several NRA conventions, including the
May 2016 convention in Kentucky, where he spoke with Donald Trump Jr.
and the gun rights organization endorsed Trump for president.
is reportedly the godfather of the Russian criminal syndicate
Taganskaya. Authorities in Spain were prepared to arrest him in 2013
on the resort island of Mallorca for money
until he cancelled his travel plans. Torshin has been a subject of a
number of Congressional investigations, including the House
November 2017, the committee interviewed Glenn Simpson, cofounder of
Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm that hired British
intelligence officer Christopher Steele to compile
on ties between Trump and Russia. Steele went to the FBI in September
2016 because he was concerned the Russians
were blackmailing Trump.
In the interview, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) asked Simpson about
Russia’s interest with the NRA:
Simpson’s own words: SIMPSON:
appears the Russians, you know, infiltrated the NRA. And there is
more than one explanation for why. But I would say broadly speaking,
it appears that the Russian operation was designed to infiltrate
conservative organizations. And they targeted various conservative
organizations, religious and otherwise, and they seem to have made a
very concerted effort to get in with the NRA. And so there is a
Russian banker-slash-Duma member-slash-Mafia leader named Alexander
Torshin who is a life member of the NRA. And we spent a lot of time
investigating Mr. Torshin.
also mentioned Maria Butina, a “big Trump fan in Russia”
who worked with Torshin, and “then suddenly showed up here and
started hanging around the Trump transition after the election.”
the 2016 election, the NRA spent a record of at least $55 million,
possibly more than $70 million, including $30
million on Trump—three
times the amount the gun rights organization had spent on Mitt Romney
in his 2012 presidential bid.
why should we care about any of this?
overwhelming political influence
there have been at least eleven school shootings in the U.S. in 2018,
and no one seems to care. America lacks the will to solve its
problems, and gun violence is certainly one of them. Money has
corrupted politics, and the signs are all around us.
has reported, oligarchs tied to Putin have
of dollars into Republican campaigns, filling the coffers of
politicians such as Sens. Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, Lindsey
Graham, and John McCain, and Govs. John Kasichand Scott Walker.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Paul Ryan received $500,000 from the Koch
Brothers immediately after Congress passed the infamous tax bill that
amounts to a huge gift to the top 1 percent.
National Rifle Association is one of the most powerful lobbying
groups in America, and has been operating like an arm of the
Republican Party, with the GOP opposing any and all gun control
measures. For the NRA, gun regulations have become far more than a
matter of policy. Rather, the group has become a solider in the
“culture wars,” branding liberals, progressives, Black
Lives Matter protesters and those who oppose Trump as their enemy.
year in an NRA ad, Dana
called for a civil war against the left, who in her words “use
their media to assassinate real news,” “use their schools
to teach children that their president is another Hitler,” and
“smash windows, burn cars, shut down interstates and airports,
bully and terrorize the law-abiding — until the only option
left is for the police to do their jobs and stop the madness.”
critic, activist Samuel Sinyangwe, tweeted that the ad was “the
white equivalent of an ISIS recruitment video.”
NRATV, NRA’s media outlet, two men accused Black Lives Matter
of committing mass violence against whites, making parallels to
“South Africa where white families are being tortured and
killed almost every day in racist violence.”
of the men, NRA host Grant Stinchfield, once suggested North Korea
should bomb California instead of Guam, and insisted we “blame
minorities killing each other” for gun violence rather than
“law abiding conservatives. Let’s look harder at broken
families not gun laws.” In another video called “We
Stand,” the NRA inserted itself into the NFL
protests against police brutality.
NRA, like the GOP, has jumped head first into the pool of fascism and
racism, making it increasingly more difficult to distinguish between
white supremacist militias and hate groups, gun lobbyists and
get very serious when this all translates into policy.
is the NRA so mum on Russia ties?
for Gun Safety, which has created an interactive
on ties between the NRA, Russia and Trump World, notes that the NRA
forged ties with Putin as Russia meddled in the U.S. election. “Not
only are they Trump’s #1 ally, the NRA’s leadership
has been building relationships with Russian officials since at least
2011,” said Jamie Schell, Political Research Director for
Everytown for Gun Safety in a Dec. 29 email to supporters.
called out the NRA for promoting a “guns everywhere”
agenda. “It’s no surprise that the NRA doesn’t want
to talk about their ties to Russia. How can the NRA be protecting
freedom when they cozy up to Putin’s authoritarian regime?”
gun lobby has enabled gun proliferation in America, a land where
there are as many firearms as there are people. The U.S. has 4.4
percent of the world population, but 42
percent of the guns.
This reality translates into 30,000 gun-related deaths each year, and
it should be regarded as a major public health crisis.
violence has taken a particular toll on the Black community in terms
of homicides, creating a vicious cycle of trauma. Through its
legalized bribery of elected officials, the NRA has stood in the way
of solutions to America’s gun problem, blocking
gun violence research for 20 years. Their answer has been guns
December, the House voted to extremely expand the right to carry
concealed weapons just about anywhere in the country, requiring any
state to recognize a concealed carry permit from another state. Who
benefits from this? Obviously, the NRA, the Republicans, and Russia.
Because if you want to disrupt another country, weaken it internally
and undermine it, what better way to accomplish this than to bring in
all the guns and turn it into the Wild West?
GOP leadership refuses to accept the Russia investigation, led by
Special Counsel Robert Mueller, as legitimate. In some cases they’ve
even attempted to impede and undermine it. For example, Trump
attempted to fire Mueller last June, ordering the prosecutor’s
termination, which White House lawyer Don McGahn refused to carry
Republicans in Congress oppose legislation making it more difficult
to fire Mueller. The president also launched
a campaign to discredit potential FBI witnesses in Mueller’s
probe. GOP lawmakers have promoted a conspiracy theory that there is
a “deep state” FBI plot to bring down Trump.
Intelligence Committee chair Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), who reportedly
recused himself in the Russia investigation because he was a member
of the Trump transition team, has exhibited strange behavior for
months. Recently, against the objection of the Justice Department,
Nunes has called for the release of a Republican
alleging the FBI abused the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
(FISA) by obtaining a warrant against Trump campaign adviser Carter
memo targets Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein–who
oversees Mueller and who Trump wants removed–and deputy FBI
Director Andrew McCabe–who worked under fired FBI Director
James Comey and has just stepped down–for their role in the
and other examples of obstruction and efforts to protect Trump only
point to GOP culpability, given what is known about the NRA’s–and
by extension the Republican Party’s–ties to Russia.
if the NRA did take the Russian money and gave it to Trump and other
Republican campaigns, that would certainly explain some things.
This commentary was originally published by The Grio