Senate Democrats Probe NRA-Linked Trip to Russia That Involved an Alleged Russian Spy

What were top NRA players doing on a junket with Maria Butina?

Maria Butina speaks at a guns rights rally in Moscow on April 21, 2013. AP

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

A group of Democratic senators are demanding answers from members of a National Rifle Association-linked delegation that traveled to Russia in 2015 with accused Russian spy Maria Butina. While in Russia, the group, which included former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke and top NRA donors and executives, met with Dmitry Rogozin, the deputy prime minister, who had been sanctioned by the Obama administration after Russia’s invasion of Crimea. The delegation also visited the Orsis gun factory, which manufactures a high-end sniper rifle used by Russian troops that the Pentagon has expressed concerns about. 

In letters sent to members of the delegation, the senators—Ron Wyden, Elizabeth Warren, Sheldon Whitehouse, and Richard Blumenthal—ask them to explain what they know about how the trip was funded, the extent that the NRA was involved with organizing the trip, and whether the gun group provided any financial backing for it. Butina, who was arrested last week and charged with operating as an unregistered foreign agent, had claimed that a Russian gun rights organization she ran, the Right to Bear Arms, had covered some of the costs for the trip, and on an ethics disclosure Clarke reported accepting $6,000 in meals, lodging, and travel from Butina’s group for the trip. (Clarke now works with a pro-Trump super-PAC.) Butina, according to federal prosecutors, has worked closely with Alexander Torshin, a Russian politician and Putin ally, as part of a “years-long conspiracy to work covertly in the United States as an undeclared agent of the Russian Federation in order to advance the interest of her home country.”

The letters also ask members of the delegation to detail the extent of their interactions with Butina, Torshin, and Rogozin—and anyone who might have been on the US sanctions list—before and during the trip. The letter was sent to Clarke; David Keene, a former NRA president, who had helped Butina’s Russian group; Pete Brownell, who at the time was an NRA vice president and who recently ended a term as the president; two top NRA donors; and the president of the Outdoor Channel television network.

Wyden has sent previous letters to the NRA regarding the gun rights group’s connections with Russia during the 2016 election, focusing on whether the group received any financial support from the Russian government. The NRA has refused to answer his queries.

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate