Vladimir Putin was directly supportive of a plot to have Russian agents infiltrate the NRA and use it to sow discord in the United States, a new report claims.
The report from the Daily Beast, based on a review of U.S. intelligence reports, shows that the Kremlin blessed efforts to have Russia central bank official Alexander Torshin and alleged spy Maria Butina aggressively court NRA leaders and use the organization to support Republican candidates. The report noted that while senior Russian government officials denied any involvement with the NRA, evidence gathered by worldwide intelligence agencies shows otherwise.
“This reporting indicates that Alexander Torshin was working with the blessing of the Kremlin, at a minimum,” a European intelligence official told the outlet. The official said that the NRA would seem a logical target if a county were looking to influence American politics because the gun lobbyist group has such a strong influence, especially among Republicans.
The intelligence report claimed that Torshin told Russian officials they could use the NRA to reach politically active Americans, and top NRA officials were invited to Russia in 2015.
The main goal of this plan was to help Donald Trump in his election bid and to hurt Hillary Clinton, but also to “create as much chaos in our democracy as possible,” said Steve Hall, a 30-year veteran of the CIA who oversaw operations in Russia, during his interview with the Daily Beast. Those goals are identical to ones that intelligence officials said Russia used when interfering in the 2016 presidential election.
NEW: A report produced by a US intel agency, which I reviewed, assessing that Alexander Torshin read in the Kremlin and Ministry of Foreign Affairs on his outreach to the NRA https://t.co/Ok27KeltuM— Betsy Woodruff (@woodruffbets) January 14, 2019
While the intelligence reports noted that the NRA plot had the backing of the Kremlin, one unnamed official with deep knowledge of Russian intelligence services told the outlet that this really meant one person — Vladimir Putin. Any involvement of the Kremlin meant that Putin was directly involved in at least giving his blessing, the report noted.
The report from The Daily Beast comes just one day after a report from the Washington Post claimed that Donald Trump had taken extensive steps to ensure that there was no record of what was discussed during his private meetings with Vladimir Putin. The report noted that Trump had notes from the meetings destroyed, and that even state department officials were unaware of the lengths he took to keep the discussions a secret. The report noted that the behavior is a major departure from past presidents, who include top officials in meetings and keep extensive notes that are then shared with other officials and departments.