A media frenzy has erupted in the wake of a Thursday morning report by McClatchy that the FBI is possibly looking into whether a “top Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin” may have “illegally funneled” money to the National Rifle Association to help Donald Trump’s White House campaign.
That banker was identified as Alexander Torshin. The story cited two unidentified sources for the information. The FBI does not comment on ongoing investigations.
An NRA spokesman told Liberty Park Press via email that, “The National Rifle Association has not been contacted by the FBI or any other investigative body.”
The New York Daily News reported Thursday that, “It is not clear how much money changed hands between Torshin and the NRA, which along with the Russian Central Bank and the FBI did not comment on the report.”
The McClatchy story also acknowledged, “The extent to which the FBI has evidence of money flowing from Torshin to the NRA, or of the NRA’s participation in the transfer of funds, could not be learned.”
By law, foreign money may not be used to influence federal elections, McClatchy emphasized.
Is the report credible? One nationally-recognized leader in the gun rights movement is, at best, skeptical.
Alan Gottlieb, founder and executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation and chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, both based in Bellevue, Washington, said that he is taking the story “with a grain of salt.”
Gottlieb met Torshin on a trip to Moscow as part of his (Gottlieb’s) efforts to expand gun rights across the globe. Gottlieb was a major force behind the creation of the International Association for the Protection of Civilian Arms Rights (IAPCAR). The group has member organizations in several countries and on nearly all continents, and has appeared before a United Nations committee on the subject of small arms regulation.
“He (Torshin) has never tried to unduly influence me,” Gottlieb said.
Gottlieb and his wife met socially with Torshin and his wife during a trip to Moscow some years ago, he recalled.
Torshin, identified as the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank, is reportedly an NRA member and he has attended NRA conventions. Gottlieb recalled that Torshin has visited with him at the SAF display during past NRA gatherings, and that he has a strong interest in gun rights for Russian citizens. Because of his efforts, Gottlieb said Torshin is considered something of a hero among Russian gun owners.
“He’s been fighting for expanded gun rights, and he’s been trying to put a Second Amendment (equivalent) in the Russian constitution,” Gottlieb said.
The notion that Torshin may have “funneled money” to the NRA seemed questionable at best to Gottlieb.
“I have no knowledge of any Russian money going to NRA to influence elections,” he said during an interview for Liberty Park Press and other publications. “No offers were ever made to the Citizens Committee or Second Amendment Foundation…No offers of funds were ever made to any groups I’m associated with.”
Gottlieb is involved in various conservative political activities and annually attends the Conservative Political Action Conference.
Part of his skepticism is due to what he called a history of McClatchy reporting that has not been favorable to gun rights or the NRA.
“Therefore,” he said, “I have to take the story with a grain of salt.”
The story noted that NRA reported spending $55 million during the 2016 election cycle, including $30 million to support Trump’s candidacy. NRA endorsed Trump early in 2016, at its annual convention, even before the Republican convention held later in the summer. Trump appeared last year at the NRA convention in Atlanta, vowing to never let NRA members down. Trump is also a member of the association.
President Trump has maintained that there was no “collusion” between his campaign and Russia.