Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation started out specifically to probe Russian interference in the 2016 election.
It now seems to have worked its way into an NDA signed by a former porn star (who isn’t even affiliated with Russia, last I checked — although she did star in something called “Zdenka & Friends,” which sounds vaguely Eastern European, so who knows?)
Oh, and while the Mueller investigation was at it, too, they investigated the National Rifle Association’s tax returns. Because there’s nothing that says love of the Russians like the … NRA?
“For months, the National Rifle Association has had a stock answer to queries about an investigation into whether Russian money was funneled to the gun rights group to aid Donald Trump’s presidential campaign,” McClatchy reported Monday. “The NRA, which spent $30 million-plus backing Trump’s bid, has heard nothing from the FBI or any other law enforcement agency, spokesman Andrew Arulanandam reiterated in an email the other day.
“Legal experts, though, say there’s an easy explanation for that. They say it would be routine for Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators, who are looking at the NRA’s funding as part of a broader inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections, to secretly gain access to the NRA’s tax returns from the Internal Revenue Service.”
Mueller and Co. have been scouring the names of donors that the NRA keeps from the public — totaling $21 million of the group’s pro-Trump and voter turnout spending — reportedly looking for links to Russia.
“A central question for Mueller’s office is whether any of the confidential donors’ names hold clues that could enable investigators to trace a donation camouflaged to hide its Russian origins — such as a shell company that might be the end point in a chain of offshore transactions,” McClatchy reported.
“It is illegal for foreign funds to be spent to influence U.S. elections.”
The probe seems to be focusing on Alexander Torshin, a Putin ally and deputy governor of Russia’s central bank. According to McClatchy, the theory apparently is that Torshin “arranged for Russian money to flow through the gun rights group to aid Trump, people familiar with the inquiry say.”
“Torshin has drawn scrutiny in part because Spanish prosecutors accused him of money-laundering and also because he cultivated relationships with the NRA that nearly earned him a meeting with Trump.”
This is theoretically possible, of course. It becomes significantly sketchier when you factor in that Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have been pushing this theory hard for reasons that you can probably guess.
“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,” read a document from Judiciary Committee Democrats released in May, according to Independent Journal Review.
“The Kremlin may also have used the NRA to secretly fund Mr. Trump’s campaign. The extent of Russia’s use of the NRA as an avenue for connecting with and potentially supporting the Trump campaign needs examination.”
The Democrats also focused on Maria Butina, a Russian national living in the United States they say has “strong ties” to the NRA.
Butina, they say, “refused to cooperate” with them, the Democrat document stated, according to IJR. I don’t know whether Butina broke the law or acted as a Kremlin agent, but given the assumptions made by Senate Democrats, I’d say not cooperating with them was a pretty canny move.
“The Committee has requested an interview and documents related to efforts by Mr. Torshin to arrange a meeting between President Putin and then-candidate Trump and possible use of the National Rifle Association (NRA) by Russia to contribute money to the Trump campaign,” it added.
The moment that the Mueller investigation comes out with reasonable proof that links Russian shell donors with the NRA, I’ll join pretty much everyone calling for the book to be thrown at anyone responsible.
What we’ve gotten is a lot of insinuations without a whole lot of beef. And, given the track record of the Mueller investigation and the congressional Democrats who have warmed their hands over its embers, as if the dying heat from them is the only thing keeping the vague hope of real Russian collusion alive, I have every reason to believe this will end the same way as every other overhyped thing Mueller’s touched.
What we will end up getting, my money says, is a series of insinuations and “maybes” and “perhaps.” And in the end, it’ll just be a waste of taxpayer dollars and a good excuse to rifle through the NRA’s donor list. But hey, maybe that Stormy thing will pan out. I hear that Zdenka character “refused to cooperate” with investigators.
If liberals needed any idea why conservatives are so dubious about Robert Mueller’s fishing expedition, particularly given the IRS targeting scandal, the bias within the investigation and the Democrats’ vendetta to delegitimize the NRA and gun rights groups any way that they can, this is it.
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