Interesting paths have been converging for quite some time in the National Rifle Association leadership, the Republican party, and Russia. A Russian politician and banker with ties to the Russian mob, Alexander Torshin and his assistant from Siberia, Maria Butina, have been cultivating the NRA and Republicans since 2011. Mother Jones has compiled a comprehensive timeline and it is a must read, if you would understand how the dots connect and what a tangled web the Republicans and Donald Trump have woven.
November 2013: Torshin and Butina invite [NRA President David] Keene to Moscow for a Right to Bear Arms meeting that draws 200 people and features a fashion show, including attire designed for carrying concealed weapons. […]
December 8-13, 2015: [NRA member Paul] Erickson, Keene, future NRA President Pete Brownell, and Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke meet with Kremlin officials in Moscow, where they have lavish meals and visit a gun manufacturer. Clarke, an outspoken Trump supporter, later files an ethics report showing that Right to Bear Arms paid $6,000 for his expenses. […]
January 21, 2016: Trump speaks at the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s annual “SHOT Show” in Las Vegas; Don Jr. and Eric Trump also attend, posing with representatives from Sig Sauer, whose “Black Mamba” MCX assault rifle would soon be used in the Orlando nightclub massacre. Ten days later, at an event at an Iowa gun shop, Don Jr. and Eric Trump shoot assault rifles and brag about their concealed-carry permits. “I shoot all the time,” Don Jr. tells the Telegraph. “Every weekend.” [..]
May 2016: In an email to Trump campaign aide Rick Dearborn, with the subject line “Kremlin Connection,” Erickson says Russia is “quietly but actively seeking a dialogue with the U.S.” and proposes using the NRA convention to set up “first contact” with the Trump team. According to a New York Times report, Erickson writes that he’s in a position to “slowly begin cultivating a back-channel to President Putin’s Kremlin.” The email doesn’t name Torshin but appears to reference him as “President Putin’s emissary” who planned to attend a dinner hosted by conservative Christian activist Rick Clay. Meanwhile, Clay sends an email to Dearborn with the subject line “Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite,” seeking a meeting between Trump and Torshin. Dearborn forwards Clay’s email to Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who reportedly nixes the proposal. […]
June 15, 2016: House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy tells fellow GOP leaders in a private conversation, “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump. Swear to God.” House Speaker Paul Ryan immediately shuts down the conversation and swears those present to secrecy. When a recording of the conversation later becomes public, McCarthy says he was just joking.
August 2016: Hours after Trump appears to threaten Hillary Clinton during a campaign rally by invoking “Second Amendment people” who might “do something” to stop her, Politico reports that the NRA has bought its most expensive pro-Trump campaign ad yet: a $3 million spot attacking Clinton.
The entire saga of the NRA cultivating the GOP is strange and convoluted enough, but here’s the bottom line:
November 14, 2017: “It appears the Russians…infiltrated the NRA,” Glenn Simpson, founder of the opposition research firm Fusion GPS, testifies to the House Intelligence Committee. “They targeted various conservative organizations, religious and otherwise, and they seem to have made a very concerted effort to get in with the NRA.” Referencing Torshin and Butina, he adds, “The most absurd [thing] about this is that, you know, Vladimir Putin is not in favor of universal gun ownership for Russians. And so it’s all a big charade, basically.”
It’s a charade designed to get all of us at each other’s throats.