Former NRA President David Keene wrote a personal letter to Russian Senator Alexander Torshin in 2011 offering the NRA’s help for Torshin’s endeavors. The handwritten note was inscribed on official NRA letterhead days after Torshin attended his first NRA convention in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
“If there is anything any of us can do to help you in your endeavors” Keene wrote, “then please, don’t hesitate to let us know.”
It is unclear to what endeavors Keene was referring. The Right To Bear Arms, a pro-gun Russian group headed by Torshin’s deputy Maria Butina, was not founded until 15 months after the letter was written. A source with knowledge of the conversations between Keene and Torshin indicated that financial support from the NRA to Torshin was discussed. It is not known whether money ever changed hands. Keene and Torshin did not immediately return requests for comment and Torshin blocked me on Twitter.
“Dear Sen. Torshin,
Just a brief note to let you know just how much I enjoyed our meeting in Pittsburgh during the NRA annual meeting.
As I indicated, you and your colleagues will receive a formal invitation to next year’s meeting in St. Louis. For planning purposes, you may wish to note that it will be held on April 12–17th, 2012.
In the interim, if there is anything any of us can do to help you in your endeavors, then, please don’t hesitate to let us know.
With all best wishes… David Keene”
Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating Torshin and whether any Russian money went to the NRA to help Trump. During the campaign, Torshin attempted to broker a backdoor line of communication between candidate Trump and Vladimir Putin.
Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller’s office, declined to comment on Tuesday.
The disclosure of the letter from Keene to Torshin is the first piece of evidence that the NRA directly offered assistance to the Kremlin-ally. The NRA has attempted to downplay their relationship with Torshin, noting that they have not been contacted by anyone in the FBI regarding the Russia probe. One month after receiving the letter, Torshin was pictured alongside Vladimir Putin in Moscow.
Torshin’s colorful history has been the subject of intense media scrutiny in recent months. Connections to a money laundering operation in Spain and the Russian mafia have emerged.
According to a confidential report by the Spanish Civil guard, Torshin allegedly, “instructed members of the Moscow-based Taganskaya crime syndicate how to launder ill-gotten gains through banks and properties in Spain while he was a deputy speaker of the upper house of parliament.” The Russian politician was known as the leader of the crime syndicate, and was often referred to as the “godfather” of the group. The NRA letter arrived amidst his reported illegal activities.
In 2015, Torshin was nominated as a deputy head of the Central Bank of Russia — a position that gives him access to Putin like few others in the Russian government. The Senator-turned-banker has had multiple meetings with those in Trump’s orbit, both prior to and during the campaign.
Torshin was photographed in a December 2015 Moscow meeting with Sheriff David Clarke, NRA leader Pete Brownell, and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, among others. The trip to Russia was organized by Butina’s The Right To Bear Arms.
At the 2016 NRA convention, Trump Jr. met with Torshin. According to Trump Jr.’s lawyer Alan Futerfas, the two “made small talk for a few minutes and went back to their separate meals.”
The revelation of the note sent by Keene to one of Putin’s closest allies raises new questions about the relationship between the NRA and the Kremlin. It portrays a willingness to develop an operational alliance. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, NRA spending surged $100 million in 2016 compared to previous election cycles. As a 501c(4) non-profit, the NRA does not have to disclose its donors.
“No politician benefited more from the NRA’s 2016 spending binge than President Donald Trump” the Center for Responsive Politics report concluded, “The NRA spent over $30 million in support of Trump’s candidacy — or more than its combined spending in all races during the 2008 and 2012 presidential election cycles.”
Under 52 U.S. Code § 30121 it is a federal crime for a foreign national to make a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value to influence an election cycle. Robert Mueller’s probe into the NRA’s connections to the Kremlin is ongoing.