The NRA’s Wayne LaPierre spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) yesterday and said largely what everyone expected him to say. LaPierre ran through his usual list of villains, opponents, and bogeymen, with remarks I generally found more boring than infuriating.
There was, however, an exception. LaPierre also appears to have a problem with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The NRA leader made a point to thank the “honorable, decent, hardworking people” in federal law enforcement, before making clear that he’s not happy with the FBI’s recent direction. From the transcript:
“[A]s we’ve learned in recent months, even the FBI is not free of its own corruption and its own unethical agents. Look – and I know you probably all share this sentiment, and I get people telling me from coast to coast, and they kind of shake their heads when they say it to me – I could understand a few bad apples in an organization as large as the FBI, but what’s hard to understand is why no one at the FBI stood up and called BS on its rogue leadership.
“I mean, really, where was the systemic resistance and repulsion that should protect every powerful institution that serves us?”
There are a couple of angles to this to keep in mind. The first is that on the right, the FBI, despite its reputation as a fairly conservative law-enforcement agency, has quickly become a target for the far-right. There’s no real mystery as to why this is: Donald Trump took aim at the bureau as the Russia scandal intensified, and conservatives have taken the cue, looking askance at the FBI in ways the right traditionally has not.
But let’s also not forget the reports from last month that the FBI is exploring possible connections between the NRA and Russia. As we regular readers may recall, the far-right group invested heavily in Trump’s candidacy in 2016, tripling the amount of money it spent on Mitt Romney, and according to a McClatchy News report, the FBI is “investigating whether a top Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin illegally funneled money to the National Rifle Association to help Donald Trump win the presidency.”
The article added, “FBI counterintelligence investigators have focused on the activities of Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank who is known for his close relationships with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the NRA, the sources said.”
As Rachel explained on the show, Torshin, Putin’s friend, has faced allegations of money laundering and connections to organized crime. He’s also a longtime NRA member who, during the 2016 campaign, made multiple efforts to arrange behind-the-scenes meetings between Trump and Russians.
It’s against this backdrop that one of the NRA’s most prominent leaders complained at CPAC about “corruption” and “rogue” officials at the FBI, which demand “systemic resistance.”