The National Rifle Association (NRA) has acted as a “foreign asset” in providing Russian officials access to US political organizations, according to an investigation by Senate Democrats.
The results of the investigation were published by the Oregon senator Ron Wyden on Friday. The report also alleges that the NRA may have broken tax laws by using donated funds to further its officers’ business interests.
Wyden and other Democrats on the Senate finance committee found that a delegation of NRA officials traveled to Moscow in December 2015.
The trip was coordinated with Maria Butina and Alexander Torshin, who are both Russian. Butina is currently serving an 18-month prison sentence after she tried to infiltrate US conservative groups and the NRA to promote Russian political interests around the 2016 election.
While in Russia the NRA met with “a host of senior level Kremlin officials”, Wyden said. Those officials included Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, and the deputy prime minister, Dmitry Rogozin, who oversaw defense and munitions industries.
After the trip to Russia, the NRA allowed Butina to bring a delegation from Russia to its influential annual meeting. Wyden said the NRA also “provided access” to other conservative political organizations, including the National Prayer Breakfast and the Council for National Policy.
The investigation also found that the then vice-president of the NRA, Pete Brownell, had agreed to go on the trip in exchange for business opportunities in Russia. At least part of the trip was paid for by the NRA, according to the report. Brownell was the vice-president of the organization, which has tax-exempt status, from May 2017 to May 2018.