The FBI is investigating whether a Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin illegally channeled money to the National Rifle Association to help get Donald Trump elected president, McClatchy reports. Two sources told the news service that FBI's counterintelligence shop is examining Alexander Torshin, deputy governor of Russia's central bank, and whether he used his connections to the NRA (and to Republican lawmakers, including Friend of Moscow Dana Rohrabacker) to get Russian money into NRA coffers. It is illegal to use foreign money to influence U.S. elections.Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
The NRA spent $30 million backing Trump—three times what it spent on Mitt Romney—though that's just what it had to report. On the books, the NRA spent $55 million overall in 2016, but sources close to the gun lobby told McClatchy the real total was closer to $70 million. Independent groups are not required to disclose what they spend on Internet ads or get-out-the-vote operations, which could make up the difference. More to the point, the organization spent most of its money through "an arm of the NRA that is not required to disclose its donors."
Torshin, whom McClatchy classifies as a "Putin proxy," is at the center of the investigation. He was implicated in a money laundering scheme by Spanish authorities, who alleged he helped Russian mobsters run their money through Spanish properties and banks. In a 500-page report, the Spanish authorities suggested Torshin was a "godfather" in a major criminal organization, Taganskaya. Spanish investigators snagged Alexander Romanov, a Torshin associate who referred to him as "godfather" or "boss" in phone conversations, on money laundering charges in 2016. They tried to get Torshin, too, when he arrived for a planned trip to Spain—but he canceled after a Russian prosecutor warned him of the Spaniards' intent.Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Torshin spoke to Donald Trump, Jr. at an NRA gala in Kentucky in May 2016, when, according to McClatchy, "his father won an earlier-than-usual NRA presidential endorsement." He also tried to broker a meeting between Trump the Elder and Vladimir Putin, and to meet with Trump himself near the 2016 NRA convention. And then there's this, regarding "veteran conservative operative Paul Erickson":
Erickson has raised funds for the NRA and is a friend of [Maria Butina, a Torshin protege]. Shortly before the NRA’s May 2016 convention, he emailed Trump campaign aide Rick Dearborn about the possibility of setting up a meeting between Putin and Trump during the campaign, according to the Times.
Erickson’s email to Dearborn bore the subject line “Kremlin Connection.” In it, Erickson solicited advice from Dearborn and his boss, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, a top foreign policy adviser to Trump’s campaign, about the best way to connect Putin and Trump.
Jeff Sessions, huh?
The revelations come the same week as a BuzzFeed report that Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team are investigating sketchy financial transactions out of the Russian embassy in Washington. Sergey Kislyak, who's caused a lot of trouble meeting with Trump associates—including Sessions—who can never seem to remember him, received $120,000 ten days after Trump won the election. That was flagged by the bank, as was an attempt to withdraw $150,000 cash from the embassy's account, which was blocked. These are part of the millions of dollars in embassy financial activity flagged by Citibank, which handles its finances, in recent years.
Mueller also subpoenaed former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon this week, who quickly agreed to cooperate in exchange for a meeting at the special counsel's offices rather than a federal court. But not for the first time, it looks like it's all about the money.
Source : http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/a15384608/fbi-nra-russia-money-trump/