Saturday, March 03, 2018

Money Laundering: Putin To Torshin To The NRA To Señor Trumpanzee


How much did the NRA spend on electing Señor T? $20 million? 30 million? It's hard to unravel the numbers; I guess they make it hard. But one thing's for sure... it's more than the NRA ever spent on any candidate in history. Trump. A guy who wasn't likely to win-- and who had a mixed, spotty record on NRA issues. And where did they get that kind of money to throw away like that? Ever hear of Alexander Torshin? He was a Russian senator from 2001 to 2015, a close Putin ally who helps run his United Russia party and the Russian Mafia and the deputy head of the Central Bank of Russia. And the founder of the Russian version of the NRA and an honorary lifetime member of the American NRA.

Tim Mak covered the emerging story for NPR this week and you can listen to it below. The report is rather ominous and he's taking about Torshin, a prolific tweeter, here: "A prominent Kremlin-linked Russian politician has methodically cultivated ties with leaders of the National Rifle Association, and documented efforts in real time over six years to leverage those connections and gain access deeper into American politics, NPR has learned. The revelations, wrote Mak, "come amid news that the FBI is investigating whether Torshin, the deputy governor of the Bank of Russia, illegally funneled money to the National Rifle Association to assist the Trump campaign in 2016, McClatchy reported in January."
Investigations by Congress and the Department of Justice have revealed that the Russian government has sought to sharpen political divisions among American citizens by amplifying controversial social issues. Investigators have expressed concern about Russian links to the NRA, one of the most politically polarizing organizations in the U.S.
Americans who have been left behind as the U.S. turned towards-- full speed-ahead-- plutocracy in the decades since Reagan was elected, are angry. That's why so many of them voted for a clownish bore like Trump in 2016. They're not going to necessarily go on the attack with torches, their pitchforks and hunting rifles, but they do seem prepared to shred the country entirely... which is precisely what Trump is doing for them... and precisely what Putin was willing to spend some loose change on. Does it feel like the country is falling apart? It isn't a coincidence.
Torshin's use of NRA connections to open doors, and his 2015 claim to know Trump through the organization, raise new questions about the group's connections with Russian officials-- at a time when the organization is being roundly criticized by its opponents, and at times the president himself, for opposition to gun control.

The president has also defended the group in recent days as the gun debate has reemerged in the wake of a Florida school shooting, including a tweet calling the group's leaders "Great American Patriots."

The NRA has been a key part of Trump's conservative base. After a meeting with lawmakers in which Trump angered many conservatives for entertaining proposals for gun control, the president tweeted that he had another meeting with NRA leaders in the Oval Office on Thursday night.

On his verified Twitter account, Torshin talked about how he knew Donald Trump through the NRA, citing a connection at the group's 2015 convention. Responding to a tweet about comedian Larry David accusing Trump of being a racist, Torshin said he knew the businessman through the NRA, and defended him.

"I saw him in Nashville" in April 2015, Torshin added later, the date and site of the NRA's 2015 convention. Trump gave a speech at that convention, the outlines of which would become familiar as his stump speech throughout the 2016 presidential campaign. The White House did not respond to repeated requests for comment by NPR, but denied Trump has ever met Torshin to Bloomberg News in 2017.

Among his tens of thousands of tweets, Torshin also documented his attendance at every NRA convention between 2012 and 2016, only some of which have been previously reported.

Torshin's attendance at the NRA convention in 2016 is where he reportedly met with Donald Trump, Jr.

Torshin had made repeated attempts to meet with Donald Trump himself at that convention during the presidential election year, but there is no evidence of this occurring. A conservative activist with ties to Torshin aide Maria Butina reached out to the Trump campaign in 2016, saying that Russia was "quietly but actively seeking a dialogue with the U.S." and would try to use the NRA convention to make "first contact," the New York Times reported.

"Putin is deadly serious about building a good relationship with Mr. Trump," the activist, Paul Erickson wrote. "He wants to extend an invitation to Mr. Trump to visit him in the Kremlin before the election." Erickson has business ties to Butina, having started an LLC with her in South Dakota.

Torshin has used his repeated trips to NRA conventions to cultivate relationships with top NRA officials. And his Twitter account documents that he has personally met with every person who has been president of the NRA since 2012.

On Twitter, Torshin portrayed these meetings as more than merely casual encounters. In 2017, he tweeted that he was bringing a gift to then-NRA President Allan Cors, and suggested he was familiar with Cors' hobbies.

...In a public DropBox album that Torshin linked to from his Twitter account, he's seen meeting with former NRA president Jim Porter, as well as former NRA president David Keene.

His tweets suggest a longtime relationship with Keene, who repeatedly appears in photos as Torshin documents his visits, suggesting that their meeting was not merely coincidental. Keene did not respond to a request for comment.

Torshin has also met the current president of the NRA, Pete Brownell. Brownell was part of an NRA delegation that visited Moscow in 2015.

These relationships that he cultivated appeared to open another door. Torshin came to the United States in 2012 as an international election observer, and watched as ballots were cast during the Obama-Romney presidential contest in Tennessee. This was possible, he wrote, due to his NRA links.

"Tennessee resident Kline Preston requested Mr. Torshin to be an international observer in November 2012," Adam Ghassemi, a spokesman for the Tennessee Secretary of State, told NPR. The Washington Post reported last year that Preston, a Tennessee lawyer, was the one who originally introduced Torshin to former NRA president David Keene back in 2011.

...Glenn Simpson, the co-founder of research firm Fusion GPS, alluded to Torshin and the NRA during his closed-door testimony before the House intelligence committee in November.

"It appears the Russians, you know, infiltrated the NRA. And there is more than one explanation for why," Simpson told lawmakers. "But I would say broadly speaking, it appears that the Russian operation was designed to infiltrate conservative organizations. And they targeted various conservative organizations, religious and otherwise, and they seem to have made a very concerted effort to get in with the NRA."

Not only are congressional investigators interested in the NRA's relationship with Russia, but this inquiry comes as the NRA is receiving additional pressure from groups hoping to pass additional gun restrictions into law, and as dozens of American companies have cut ties with the NRA in the wake of the Parkland, Fla., shooting last month.

"These revelations suggest that for years the NRA courted a top Putin ally who is now reportedly attracting scrutiny from the FBI," John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, told NPR. "NRA leaders still haven't explained their close relationship with Russian officials in Putin's orbit. Until they do, people will continue to wonder what the NRA is hiding."

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At 8:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the American people are so easily swayed by Tweets and Facebook posts, we are then too stupid and weak-minded to be running our own nation. Current news could be seen as supporting my contention.

At 11:17 AM, Anonymous Hone said...

The extent of Russian efforts to affect our politics is astounding. Hopefully more will be revealed about the connection between the NRA and the Russians and their joint efforts to elect Trump. This is looking rather unpatriotic of the NRA - not a good look for them! Perhaps it will turn some of their members off as the news spreads - the "real" news, that is. Will Trumpeters even listen to the news and care that the NRA has actually become a wing of the Russian oligarchy set on attacking the USA? Hmmm.

This is all so freaking sick. A sci fi movie with such a ridiculous plot that it would be a fail the box office. Too unbelievable, too absurd.

At 8:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

8:33, been saying that for decades.

At 10:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Want to influence American politics? All it takes is cash!

Assuming for the moment that these torshin allegations can be proven, Russian money bought a path into the inner workings of the candidate-selection mechanism. I'm sure that those who operate the candidate-selection mechanism grabbed every dollar that was offered, proving that Marx was correct when he averred that the last capitalist hung would be the one who sold the rope.

Of course, considering that it's the NRA who is acting as Judas in this incident, maybe the statement should be updated to say that the last capitalist shot would be the one who sold the guns.


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