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FBI examines whether Russian money went to the NRA

The NRA made record investments in support of Donald Trump's campaign. Did a suspected Russian money launderer have anything to do with this?
The NRA-ILA Leadership Forum in Louisville, Ky. on May 20, 2016. (Photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for MSNBC)
The NRA-ILA Leadership Forum in Louisville, Ky. on May 20, 2016.

The National Rifle Association's interest in recent presidential elections is, at face value, mundane. The NRA has repeatedly expressed its support for Republican candidates, and the fact that it backed Donald Trump in 2016 was one of the least surprising developments of the year.

But many have wondered about the degree to which the NRA intervened on the GOP ticket's behalf in 2016. Four years earlier, for example, the far-right group was eager to defeat Barack Obama, and to that end, it spent $10 million to boost Mitt Romney's candidacy.

In 2016, the NRA spent triple that to support Trump.

What's more, most of money the group spent on the election was spent by part of the NRA's operation that isn't required to disclose its donors. McClatchy News reported this week that the FBI, according to the reporting, is exploring possible connections to Russia.

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, two sources familiar with the matter have told McClatchy.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 last night's 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.

Indeed, you may recall a New York Times report from December about the "Kremlin Connection" email.

A conservative operative trumpeting his close ties to the National Rifle Association and Russia told a Trump campaign adviser [in 2016] that he could arrange a back-channel meeting between Donald J. Trump and Vladimir V. Putin, the Russian president, according to an email sent to the Trump campaign.A May 2016 email to the campaign adviser, Rick Dearborn, bore the subject line "Kremlin Connection." In it, the N.R.A. member said he wanted the advice of Mr. Dearborn and Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, then a foreign policy adviser to Mr. Trump and Mr. Dearborn's longtime boss, about how to proceed in connecting the two leaders.Russia, he wrote, was "quietly but actively seeking a dialogue with the U.S." and would attempt to use the N.R.A.'s annual convention in Louisville, Ky., to make " 'first contact.' " The email, which was among a trove of campaign-related documents turned over to investigators on Capitol Hill, was described in detail to The New York Times.

The efforts, the article added, centered on the NRA's 2016 event and "appeared to involve Alexander Torshin."

New York's Jon Chait, noting this and other links between the NRA and Russia, made the case yesterday that the far-right group "is part of the Trump–Russia scandal now."