Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) is seeking documents from the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the Trump Administration in order to determine whether “Russian-backed shell companies” inappropriately sought to influence the 2016 election through the gun group.
Last month, McClatchy reported that the FBI is probing whether Aleksandr Torshin, a Putin ally, illegally funneled money to the NRA to boost Donald Trump. The NRA last week denied to TPM that it had been contacted by the FBI “about anything related to Russia”.
The news of Wyden’s letters was first reported by the Associated Press.
“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 to Treasury secretary Stephen Mnuchin.
The letter requests “any documents in the holdings of the Department of the Treasury associated with the National Rifle Association (NRA) and Russia” from the Treasury, noting Wyden’s specific interest in “documents from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network” and from the Treasury’s office of terrorism and financial intelligence.
In his letter to the NRA treasurer Wilson Phillips, Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, wrote that he was “troubled” by the possibility that Russian interests had tried to influence the elections “by abusing the rules governing 501(c)(4) tax exempt organizations.”
Wyden asked Phillips for “any remuneration, transaction, or contribution that involved any of the 501(c)(4) entities associated with your organization and any entity or individual associated with any Russian official, Russian national, or Russian business interest.”
Torshin — and his friend Mikhail Kalashnikov, inventor of the AK-47 are both “life members” of the NRA, Torshin has said. Life members must give at least $1,500 to the group. It’s not illegal for foreigners to contribute to the NRA’s general coffers, but it would be illegal if the group used foreign money for political activities.
As TPM has reported, Torshin has spent years cozying up to the NRA and courting American conservatives. At the same time, he has narrowly avoided arrest in Spain for his alleged role in the Taganskaya Bratva, a St. Petersburg-based criminal organization in which Torshin is allegedly a boss.