The NRA and Russia

News recently broke that the FBI is investigating whether the National Rifle Association (NRA) helped launder Russian money to support Donald Trump’s election.

It is enough to make your head spin, but it also makes a twisted kind of sense: Some of America’s most dangerous right-wing extremists reportedly may have broken the law to help a hostile foreign government illegally tilt the U.S. elections toward a pro-gun, racist, xenophobic fascist.

With each new Trump-Russia bombshell, the need for thorough investigation, by Robert Mueller and by Congress, grows. Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have already been investigating whether the NRA helped connect Russian officials to Trump’s campaign. Now, the entire committee must engage. But the NRA’s stranglehold on Congress means it will take massive pressure for Senate Republicans to do the right thing.

Tell the Senate Judiciary Committee: Investigate whether the NRA helped Russia influence our elections.

According to media reports, the NRA has cultivated deep relationships with influential Russians for years. Russian gun-rights groups have hosted NRA officials, including Trump surrogate Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clark, in Russia, and high-profile Russians have been given high-level access at NRA meetings. In 2016, Alexander Torshin, a Putin ally who is a top official at the Central Bank of Russia and is now at the center of the FBI’s investigation, sat with Donald Trump Jr. at an NRA convention-related dinner. Leading up to that convention, Paul Erickson, a conservative activist and NRA member who was part of an NRA-Russia trip, tried to use the NRA convention as “first contact” to broker a connection between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Since Putin came back to power in 2012, Russia has increasingly pursued a goal of destabilizing the U.S. Part of their strategy has been aligning with extreme groups within the American right wing to deepen existing cultural and political divisions. With the NRA, Russia has a perfect partner. The NRA is extremely divisive and has leverage over corrupt and craven members of Congress. The NRA divides us not only by blocking any efforts to keep communities safe from gun violence, but also by supercharging its long history of racism with reactionary, xenophobic and violent rhetoric that some have said could help further radicalize white domestic terrorists.

The NRA’s extremism combined with Russia’s desires to destabilize our democracy is a dangerous combination that the Senate Judiciary Committee must take seriously with a thorough investigation.

The NRA spent at least $55 million during the 2016 elections, including at least $30 million directly focused on electing Trump. When the Supreme Court opened the door for unlimited corporate dark money spending on elections with its Citizens United decision, the court’s right-wing majority alleged that the spending would be accompanied by disclosure. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The NRA has become a hub for dark money donations that are made to organizations that are not required to disclose their donors. A Karl Rove–aligned SuperPAC and a Koch brothers non-profit are among the groups that have given money to the NRA to advance Republicans’ extreme right-wing agenda. The influence of dark money is bad enough, but there have already been signs that the dark money loopholes will be used to illegally funnel foreign money into our elections. It is illegal for a campaign to solicit or receive anything of value from a foreign national. If the NRA helped Russia funnel money into the 2016 elections, it laundered money to help the Trump campaign — and potentially others in the Republican Party — break the law for electoral gain.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has a responsibility to make sure it deepens its investigation to find out what really happened — and to ensure it does not happen again. We need to show the Republicans on the committee that defending our democracy is more important than their allegiance to the NRA and make sure that the Democrats on the committee know we will have their backs if they use their power to dig in. Can you add your name today?

Sign today to tell the Senate Judiciary Committee to investigate whether the NRA helped Russia influence our elections.

photos: Getty Images: Trump: Mandel Ngan, Putin: Mikhail Svetlov

Originally published at