Special counsel Robert Mueller, who has been dragging the “Russia probe” on for more than a year, “likely got access” to the tax filings of the National Rifle Association, according to a Monday report by McClatchy.
The story does not say that has actually happened, but only suggests the possibility, and NRA has maintained it has not been contacted by investigators.
When the NRA was pulled into Mueller’s investigation of alleged Russian “meddling” into the 2016 election, it struck some in the firearms community that the special counsel had strayed into the weeds. Anti-gunners, however, used the story to further demonize the 5-million-member organization. The story centered around a Russian named Alexander Torshin, and whether he had funneled money through the NRA to the Trump campaign. NRA reportedly spent $30 million to support Trump’s presidential campaign.
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But reviving this NRA narrative, months after it was originally reported, underscores Congressman Trey Gowdy’s demand to Justice Department officials last week that they need to “finish it the hell up,” regarding the Russia probe.
Gowdy, speaking to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein during a meeting of the House Judiciary Committee, stressed, “If you have the evidence of wrongdoing by any member of the Trump campaign, present it to the damn grand jury. If you have evidence that this president acted inappropriately, present it to the American people.”
The NRA has repeatedly said it has not been contacted by the FBI, but McClatchy and other news agencies have suggested that this would not be surprising, because the investigation would have “secretly” gotten information it needed from the IRS. According to the story, it is “still unclear…just how and why the nation ‘s leading gun rights lobby became entangled in Mueller’s sweeping investigation that has preoccupied the president and gripped the nation.”
The McClatchy story quotes Steve Hall, identified as “a former chief of the CIA’s Russia operations.” According to McClatchy, Hall “suspects that NRA board members and current and former officers may have been duped over several years into playing a role in a Kremlin-directed intelligence operation that eventually offered the potential for both a communication line to Trump’s team and a way to put money behind his campaign.”
Hall suggested, according to the story, that “the NRA got snookered.”
But will this resurrected story remind people about allegations that the IRS was “weaponized” against conservative groups during the Obama administration?
The Hill noted that Torshin “is a Russian politician and deputy of the country’s central bank. He has ties to former NRA President David Keene and hosted him for a pro-gun conference in Russia.”
Six months ago, nationally-recognized gun rights leader Alan Gottlieb told Liberty Park Press that he also has known Torshin for some time, and that the Russian “never tried to unduly influence me.” Nor did Torshin ever offer money to any group with which Gottlieb is associated. Gottlieb has also known Keene for several years.
Gottlieb is founder and executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation, and chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.
“I have no knowledge of any Russian money going to NRA to influence elections,” he said at the time. “No offers were ever made to the Citizens Committee or Second Amendment Foundation…No offers of funds were ever made to any groups I’m associated with.”