The “Russia investigation” has now taken on a new spin, as the Federal Election Commission has launched an investigation into the National Rifle Association, seeking to find out if they may have passed on any contributions from Russian entities to the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election, Politico reported Friday.
The NRA reportedly spent $30 million during the 2016 presidential election season, in their support for Trump. The allegation being put forth is that part of that money may have come from the Russians.
The inquiry stems in part from a complaint from a liberal advocacy group, the American Democracy Legal Fund, which asked the FEC to look into media reports about links between the rifle association and Russian entities, including a banker with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Brad Woodhouse, treasurer for the ADLF, and a longtime Democratic Party activist, told Politico that he had received confirmation from the FEC that a preliminary investigation into their complaint had been launched.
“This story sounds more like a Tom Clancy novel than a reality,” said Woodhouse. “But in the age of Donald Trump and possible collusion with Russia, not only is it possible that it’s true, but it’s possible enough that it needs to be fully investigated.”
Politico further reported: Under FEC procedures, the preliminary investigation is likely to require the NRA to turn over closely guarded internal documents and campaign finance records. Depending on what FEC investigators and lawyers find, the agency could launch a full-blown investigation, impose fines or even make criminal referrals to the Justice Department and Special Counsel Robert Mueller, people familiar with the probe said.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore), the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, also tried to pin Russian collusion on the NRA, in a letter he sent to the group on Feb. 2, demanding they turn over documents about any potential dealings with any Russian individuals or entities.
“I am specifically troubled by the possibility that Russian-backed shell companies or intermediaries may have circumvented laws designed to prohibit foreign meddling in our elections by abusing the rules governing … tax exempt organizations,” Wyden wrote in the letter.
Eric Schultz, a senior adviser to former president Barack Obama, tweeted out his approval the allegation was being investigated, writing, “McLatchy has reported FBI looking at NRA <—> Russia ties. Now @politico reports FEC probing the same.”
— Eric Schultz (@EricSchultz) March 16, 2018