Senate Democrats Probe NRA-Linked Trip to Russia That Involved an Alleged Russian Spy

What were top NRA players doing on a junket with Maria Butina?

Maria Butina speaks at a guns rights rally in Moscow on April 21, 2013. AP

Fight disinformation. Get a daily recap of the facts that matter. Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.

A group of Democratic senators are demanding answers from members of a National Rifle Association-linked delegation that traveled to Russia in 2015 with accused Russian spy Maria Butina. While in Russia, the group, which included former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke and top NRA donors and executives, met with Dmitry Rogozin, the deputy prime minister, who had been sanctioned by the Obama administration after Russia’s invasion of Crimea. The delegation also visited the Orsis gun factory, which manufactures a high-end sniper rifle used by Russian troops that the Pentagon has expressed concerns about. 

In letters sent to members of the delegation, the senators—Ron Wyden, Elizabeth Warren, Sheldon Whitehouse, and Richard Blumenthal—ask them to explain what they know about how the trip was funded, the extent that the NRA was involved with organizing the trip, and whether the gun group provided any financial backing for it. Butina, who was arrested last week and charged with operating as an unregistered foreign agent, had claimed that a Russian gun rights organization she ran, the Right to Bear Arms, had covered some of the costs for the trip, and on an ethics disclosure Clarke reported accepting $6,000 in meals, lodging, and travel from Butina’s group for the trip. (Clarke now works with a pro-Trump super-PAC.) Butina, according to federal prosecutors, has worked closely with Alexander Torshin, a Russian politician and Putin ally, as part of a “years-long conspiracy to work covertly in the United States as an undeclared agent of the Russian Federation in order to advance the interest of her home country.”

The letters also ask members of the delegation to detail the extent of their interactions with Butina, Torshin, and Rogozin—and anyone who might have been on the US sanctions list—before and during the trip. The letter was sent to Clarke; David Keene, a former NRA president, who had helped Butina’s Russian group; Pete Brownell, who at the time was an NRA vice president and who recently ended a term as the president; two top NRA donors; and the president of the Outdoor Channel television network.

Wyden has sent previous letters to the NRA regarding the gun rights group’s connections with Russia during the 2016 election, focusing on whether the group received any financial support from the Russian government. The NRA has refused to answer his queries.

HERE ARE THE FACTS:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

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