Judiciary Dems: Kremlin may have used the NRA to help Trump campaign

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee say they have obtained documents that suggest Russia used the National Rifle Association (NRA) to help President TrumpDonald John TrumpSchiff: Surveillance warrant docs show that Nunes memo 'misrepresented and distorted these applications' Chicago detention facility under investigation following allegations of abuse of migrant children Ex-Trump aide: Surveillance warrants are 'complete ignorance' and 'insanity' MORE's 2016 campaign.

The Democrats on Wednesday released a document outlining preliminary findings from their investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. It states that the Kremlin may have “used the NRA to secretly fund Mr. Trump’s campaign.” 

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“The Committee has obtained a number of documents that suggest the Kremlin used the National Rifle Association as a means of accessing and assisting Mr. Trump and his campaign,” the document reads.

The Democrats identified two figures of particular interest: Maria Butina, a Russian national living in the U.S., and Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of the Central Bank of Russia. The Democrats noted that Butina, who worked as an assistant to Torshin, has refused to cooperate as a witness.

The document says that Butina and Torshin, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, were key parts of the Kremlin’s effort to use the NRA to aid Trump.

“[Butina and Torshin] repeatedly offered the campaign back channels to Russia and relayed requests from President Putin to meet with Mr. Trump,” the committee said. 

Both Butina and Torshin have ties to former NRA President David Keene and hosted him for a pro-gun conference in Russia. Butina founded Right to Bear Arms, the Russian equivalent of the NRA, and also started a business with former Trump adviser Paul Erickson.

The Democrats said they have requested from Butina an interview and documents related to Torshin’s efforts to arrange a meeting between Putin and Trump. They are also looking into “possible use of the National Rifle Association (NRA) by Russia to contribute money to the Trump campaign,” according to the document.

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) is reportedly investigating whether the NRA accepted illegal contributions from Russians in the 2016 campaign. The NRA and its lobbying arm spent $30 million in support Trump's campaign.

The Democrats noted Erickson and Keene have refused to cooperate.

The Hill has reached out to the NRA for comment.

The release from Democrats came after Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyKavanaugh returns questionnaire to Senate panel Sunk judicial pick spills over into Supreme Court fight Andrew Wheeler must reverse damage to American heartland MORE (R-Iowa) released hundreds of pages of transcripts of the panel's interviews with participants at a controversial Trump Tower meeting in 2016. Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpFox News bigger than ever two years after Roger Ailes Kimberly Guilfoyle leaving Fox News to campaign with Donald Trump Jr.: report George Will charges that Trump colluded with Putin MORE took that meeting after being promised dirt on then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWhite House protests extend into sixth day despite rain Clinton: US is 'losing friends and allies' under Trump Justice Dept releases surveillance applications for former Trump aide MORE's campaign.

In their document, the Democrats said the transcripts are interviews with just five of the eight participants in the meeting. 

"We still do not know the full story about the June 9 meeting at Trump Tower or, more broadly, the degree to which the campaign cooperated or communicated with Russia," the Democrats said.