The FBI is allegedly investigating the possibility that a Russian banker connected to Vladimir Putin illegally used the National Rifle Association to pour millions of dollars into Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
McClatchy, citing anonymous sources, reports that Alexander Torshin, a deputy governor of Russia’s central bank, may be largely responsible for the NRA tripling the money it spent to elect a Republican candidate to the White House.
It is illegal for foreign money to be used to influence federal elections.
In 2012, the gun rights organization spent $10 million to support GOP candidate Mitt Romney. That amount increased to $30 million in 2016 and the amount could even be higher since federal election laws do not require organizations to detail money spent on internet advertising or on get-out-the-vote initiatives.
Investigators are also looking into the possibility that Torshin’s millions might be the reason why the NRA endorsed Trump earlier in the campaign cycle than normal and at a time when a large GOP field included other candidates with long, unblemished support of the NRA and gun rights in general.
A Bloomberg News report said Torshin has been accused of being involved in money laundering in Spain and of being the head of a Russian criminal organization called Taganskaya.
Torshin is a lifetime NRA member and also established a gun rights organization in Russia.
The federal agents appear to be exploring the possibility of a marriage of convenience in which the Russians were able to elect their preferred candidate for president while Trump immediately began rescinding gun regulations put in place by the Obama Administration.
In February 2017, Trump eliminated an Obama regulation that made it more difficult for people with mental illness to buy guns.
In May 2017, Trump became the first president in decades to speak at a National Rifle Association convention in Atlanta and reiterated his support of gun rights.
“The eight-year assault on your Second Amendment rights has come to a crashing end,” Trump told the convention, adding that with him as president, the NRA had a “true friend and champion in the White House.”
In the spring of 2016, the FBI and other agencies, including the CIA, NSA, Justice Department, and the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network began examining the possibility of Russia providing financial support to the Trump campaign, according to a McClatchy investigation.
In addition to the money possibly being funneled into the National Rifle Association, the investigation looked into use of Russian money to fund hackers, including the ones who were able to break into the National Democratic Committee files and the campaign that used social media to spread false information about Trump’s Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.