We Just Found Out About Another Federal Investigation into Russian Meddling

The Federal Elections Commission is looking at pro-Trump donations made to the National Rifle Association.

The National Rifle Association booth at the 2018 Conservative Political Action Conference.Jeff Malet/Newscom via ZUMA Press

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.

The Federal Election Commission has launched an inquiry into potential illegal donations made to the National Rifle Association by Russian individuals and businesses in support of President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, according to Politico.

The revelation comes a month after Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) sought answers and relevant records in a letter to the NRA: “I am specifically troubled by the possibility that Russian-backed shell companies or intermediaries may have circumvented laws designed to prohibit foreign meddling in our elections,” Wyden wrote.

Politico, which first revealed the existence of the FEC investigation late on Friday evening, says the commission is examining similar issues to Wyden’s probe. The senator’s inquiry focuses on Alexander Torshin, a Russian central bank official with close ties to Russian president Vladimir Putin, and his contributions to the NRA. In January, McClatchy reported that the FBI was investigating Torshin’s contributions. In response to Wyden’s letter, NRA general counsel John Frazer denied the NRA had accepted donations from foreign entities during US elections. The NRA spent a striking $30 million to support Trump’s 2016 campaign. 

As Mother Jones previously reported, social media posts from Torshin and Siberian gun rights activist Maria Butina show longstanding ties between the pair, the NRA, and various conservative heavyweights. Mother Jones‘s Mark Follman and Denise Clifton recently wrote an article laying out the duo’s history:

Alexander Torshin and his protégé Maria Butina also share an extraordinary status with America’s largest gun lobbying group, according to Torshin: “Today in NRA (USA) I know only 2 people from the Russian Federation with the status of ‘Life Member’: Maria Butina and I,” he tweeted the day after Donald Trump was elected president.

Of particular interest are their overtures to Trump. Butina asked him straight-up at a campaign event about the future of “damaging” sanctions against Russia. Torshin twice tried to meet with Trump, according to the New York Times, and did meet with Donald Trump Jr. at an NRA event. Meanwhile, the House Intelligence Committee has heard sworn testimony about possible Kremlin “infiltration” of the NRA and other conservative groups. And the FBI reportedly is investigating whether Torshin illegally funneled money to the Trump campaign through the NRA—which backed Trump with a record $30 million.

Torshin, a former Russian senator and longtime ally of Vladimir Putin, has been accused of having ties to the Russian mob (an allegation he has vehemently denied). Butina, a graduate student since fall 2016 at American University in Washington, DC—who founded a Russian gun rights group and worked as Torshin’s assistant—has reportedly bragged about her connections to the Trump campaign.

More Mother Jones reporting on Dark Money

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate