Dem Lawmakers to Open 'Complex Web of Relationships' Between NRA, Russia

February 18, 2019
In The News

A pair of Democratic lawmakers are reportedly opening an investigation into what they call the "complex web of relationships" between certain individuals from the National Rifle Association (NRA) and Russia. 

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) made a range of requests from NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre in a letter obtained by ABC News.

The news network notes that the lawmakers voiced concerns about the NRA's attempts to distance itself from having formal involvement in a 2015 trip a group of its members took to Moscow. 

The organization’s outside counsel, William A. Brewer III, told The New York Times that LaPierre was "opposed to the trip." But new information, such as internal emails, reviewed by ABC News last month, indicated that the organization may have been significantly involved in the trip. 

A photo of the visit shows several current and former NRA members standing next to Maria Butina, who is accused of being a Russian spy who tried to set up a back channel between the NRA and Russia, and Alexander Torshin, a Russian politician thought to be Butina's superior.

Lieu and Rice said that the contrasting picture may show an intent to deceive the public, according to ABC News. The lawmakers asked for a comprehensive account of communications, meetings and monetary transactions between NRA officials and Russia-linked individuals.

“We are disturbed by the lack of transparency the NRA has demonstrated surrounding the December 2015 trip to Moscow,” Lieu and Rice wrote. “Furthermore, we are concerned that this extends to other allegations that have been made against the organization as it relates to Russia.”

They additionally questioned how the NRA may have used money it received from individuals with ties to Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign. 

“How much money did the NRA receive from Russia or Russia-linked individuals or entities during the 2016 election cycle?” the lawmakers asked. “Did the NRA use any of that money in their 2016 election campaign contributions?”

Brewer did not immediately return a request for comment from ABC News. He also pointed to a statement he gave to The New York Times about the NRA CEO not wanting the 2015 Moscow trip to "be viewed as representing the NRA."

“When he became aware of the details of the trip, Wayne was personally opposed to it," Brewer told ABC News through a spokesman. 

The December 2015 trip to Moscow included meetings with individuals in Russian President Vladimir Putin's inner circle. The event has attracted scrutiny in recent months after Butina pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges.