Injecting new life into the ‘Russiagate’ conspiracy theory, Senate Democrats produced a report claiming that the largest US gun rights organization acted like a ‘foreign asset’ for the Kremlin and should lose tax-exempt status.
The 77-page document, published Friday by Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), insinuates that the National Rifle Association (NRA) abused its tax-exempt status by working with the gun rights activist Maria Butina – branded a “Russian agent” – and a Russian official “widely understood to be Alexander Torshin,” in what is said to be a “years-long” effort to infiltrate American politics.
“Butina and Torshin utilized a network of Russian oligarchs and high-ranking Kremlin officials to bring the NRA to Moscow with promises of lucrative business opportunities with Russian entities,” says the report, compiled by the Democrat staff of the Senate Finance Committee, where Wyden is the ranking member.
A new bombshell Senate report labels the gun rights group a “foreign asset” of Russia. https://t.co/NYZxz7hhF4
— Media Matters (@mmfa) September 27, 2019
Wyden urged the government to further investigate the NRA and suggested it should lose its tax-exempt status over the “mounting evidence of rampant self-dealing.”
The Wyden report received the “bombshell” treatment in the US mainstream media, in line with other claims of ‘Russian meddling’ over the past three years. It was also cheered by gun-control advocates, who have targeted the NRA as the principal obstacle to their attempts to outlaw firearms.
— Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) September 27, 2019
“Following two and a half years of endless, feverish speculation about so-called collusion that cast suspicion on any and all things Russian, the Minority report at issue attempts to paint a picture of the [NRA] with facts and innuendo that together actually demonstrate little to nothing,” the Republican majority on the committee said in their response to Wyden, also released on Friday.
The 19-page retort describes Wyden’s document as “littered with salacious, unsubstantiated accusations” that reads more like “a political document directed at an organization well known in US politics to be despised by Democrats because of its advocacy for Second Amendment rights.”
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Butina, a Russian gun rights activist who studied in the US, was arrested last summer and eventually sentenced to 18 months in prison for failing to register as a “foreign agent.” Defamed in the media by prosecutors as a “spy” who “traded sex for secrets,” she was held in solitary confinement until pleading guilty. Butina was never interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into alleged Russian interference with the election, and her prosecution has been universally condemned in Russia as politically motivated.
Democrats have sought to blame Russia for Hillary Clinton’s defeat in 2016, and accused President Donald Trump and the Republicans of “collusion” with the Kremlin to that effect. The special counsel probe found nothing to substantiate that accusation, however.
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