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Wyden blasts FEC Republicans for blocking probe into NRA over possible Russia donations

Wyden blasts FEC Republicans for blocking probe into NRA over possible Russia donations
© Aaron Schwartz

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenSenate Democrats nix 'Plan B' on minimum wage hike Senate mulls changes to .9 trillion coronavirus bill House Democrats pass sweeping .9T COVID-19 relief bill with minimum wage hike MORE (D-Ore.) condemned Republicans on the Federal Election Commission (FEC) after they voted on Friday to block an in-depth investigation into allegations that Russians illegally donated to the National Rifle Association (NRA) in an effort to benefit President TrumpDonald TrumpSacha Baron Cohen calls out 'danger of lies, hate and conspiracies' in Golden Globes speech Sorkin uses Abbie Hoffman quote to condemn Capitol violence: Democracy is 'something you do' Ex-Trump aide Pierson planning run for Congress MORE's 2016 presidential campaign. 

"A foreign adversary interfered in the 2016 presidential election and the response from Republicans at every level, whether it be President Trump, congressional Republicans, or now the Republican appointees on the Federal Election Commission, has been to bury their heads in the sand or actively obstruct getting to the bottom of what happened," Wyden said in a written statement provided to Newsweek.

"It's inexcusable that Republican commissioners would block an investigation into whether Russian money was funneled through the National Rifle Association to help President Trump," Wyden continued, according to Newsweek. "The blatant partisanship is appalling, undermines our democracy and leaves us vulnerable to continued interference in 2020."

In March 2018, the FEC launched a preliminary investigation into allegations that Alexander Torshin, a Russian banker and former politician with ties to President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinWest's 'wokeness' helped Russia to redefine a 'prisoner of conscience' For better or worse: Which way will US-Saudi relations go under Biden? How to rethink Russia sanctions MORE, and Maria ButinaMaria ButinaTreasury adviser pleads guilty to making unauthorized disclosures in case involving Manafort Recently jailed Maria Butina rewarded with new show on Russia Today Russia offers Maria Butina a job at human rights commission MORE, who admitted to working as a Russian agent to infiltrate the NRA, made illegal donations to the NRA in an effort for those donations to support Trump's presidential bid.

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The NRA and its lobbying arm spent a total of $30 million in the 2016 election to support Trump.

On Friday, the FEC deadlocked in a 2-2 vote, failing to find a reason to believe Torshin and Butina made illegal donations and deciding not to take action to investigate the allegations.

FEC Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub also criticized the vote on Friday, saying the FEC was doing "nothing to find out the truth behind one of the most blockbuster campaign finance allegations in recent memory."

Commissioner Caroline C. Hunter defended FEC Republicans in a statement to Newsweek, saying it is "forbidden from investigating groups purely based on rank speculation."

"Once again, Chair Weintraub rejected the advice of the FEC's lawyers but blames her Republican colleagues. Her statement is long on conjecture and short on the evidence and the law. She relies on an 'article' [published by] McClatchy written by the same individuals who inaccurately reported Michael CohenMichael Dean CohenThe Memo: Trump faces deepening legal troubles Trump lashes out after Supreme Court decision on his financial records Supreme Court declines to shield Trump's tax returns from Manhattan DA MORE was in Prague in 2016. The FEC is forbidden from investigating groups purely based on rank speculation."

Earlier this year, the gun control group Giffords filed a lawsuit against the FEC for not taking action on the investigation. The NRA dismissed the lawsuit and allegations of illegal campaign contributions, telling The Washington Post they "scrupulously follow the law."

“We scrupulously follow the law,” an NRA spokeswoman told The Post at the time. “This latest effort by Giffords and the Campaign Legal Center is a frivolous lawsuit based on a frivolous complaint.”

The Hill has reached out to the NRA and FEC for comment.