NRA claims infamous 2015 Moscow trip wasn’t official

By Alvesgaspar - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Senator Ron Wyden [D-OR] disputes the NRA’s attempt to distance themselves from the now infamous trip taken by high ranking members of the organization, ABC News reports. Wyden, who has launched an investigation into the NRA’s involvement in the trip, told ABC, “It’s not credible for the NRA to claim that they played no official role in the 2015 Moscow trip.” 

The Senator explained that the investigation into the changing positions of the NRA on this trip, and the possibility of Russian money flowing to the organization and then onto the Trump presidential campaign, remains a priority for him and his colleagues. He told ABC News, “Certainly that has caused many of my colleagues to want additional information on these issues. And our investigation is going to continue.”

The NRA is under investigation by the House Intelligence Committee, two Senate committees, and the Federal Election Commission.

Wyden’s colleage in the House, Rep. Adam Schiff [D-CA], head of the House Intelligence Committee, says the investigative thread into allegations that the NRA was used to influence the election by the Russians that was impeded by the Republican majority remains “of deep interest”.

The New York Times reported earlier this week that, after months of silence from the NRA, William A. Brewer III, the NRA’s outside counsel, now says that current NRA president, Wayne LaPierre, was against the trip, advising then president, Allen Cors, not to participate. Cors said in a statement, “Wayne expressed concerns about this trip and suggested that I not participate. Wayne did not want any misconception that this was an official trip. Frankly, I had similar concerns.”

The 2015 trip was organized by David Keene, a past NRA president who was close to Maria Butina, the Russian gun rights advocate who was arrested in July and pleaded guilty in December to charges of being a Russian foreign agent. She admitted to being part of a conspiracy to influence American politics through the NRA.

The delegation included David Keene, Pete Brownell, who would become NRA president, Joe Gregory, co-chair of the NRA’s Golden Ring of Freedom (for donors of $1 million or more), Jim Liberatore, CEO of Outdoor Channel, Dr. Arnold Goldschlager, an NRA donor, and Goldschlager’s daughter Hilary. David Clarke, Milwaukee County’s sheriff at the time and Trump campaign surrogate also participated in the Moscow trip.

The members of the NRA delegation were greeted at the airport by Maria Butina, a representative of the gun advocacy group The Right To Bear Arms, and a sign reading, “Welcome to Russia, Comrades”. The sign had the logo of the Russian gun group in one corner and the NRA logo in the other. They toured a gun factory, attended the ballet, had photos taken at a Moscow gun club, and met with with Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, as well as Dmitry Rogozin.

Then Russian deputy prime minister, Rogozin was under sanctions, for his role in the invasion of Crimea in 2014, when the NRA delegation met with him.

“National Rifle Association has familiarized itself with plans of organization in 2017 in the Russian Federation of the world Championship on shooting from a carbine,” Rogozin’s tweet reads.

ABC obtained emails between the NRA and Butina that reveal that Nicholas Perrine, an NRA employee, assisted Butina in planning the trip. In addition, other emails detail that the NRA provided formal gifts for the delegation to give to their hosts in Moscow. Furthermore, the emails indicate that the NRA planned on paying for the travel costs for two members of the group. A source familiar with the trip told ABC News that the NRA wound up paying for some of the travel expenses.

A spokesman for Brewer, counsel for the NRA, pointed out that the NRA did not send staff with the delegation and that Cors, then NRA president, followed LaPierre’s advice not to participate in the Moscow trip. He told ABC, “When he became aware of the details of the trip, Wayne was personally opposed to it.”

Halfway through his term, Pete Brownell abruptly resigned as NRA president last year, catching even Oliver North, his predecessor, off guard. In addition to the congressional scrutiny, the organization finds itself under, the NRA was outspent by groups opposed to gun rights in the 2018 elections. This is a reversal of what has been the norm in the recent past.

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