Clashing Senate Reports and New Questions on the N.R.A. – The New York Times
“Following two and a half years of endless, feverish speculation about so-called collusion that cast suspicion on any and all things Russian, the Minority report at issue attempts to paint a picture of the National Rifle Association with facts and innuendo that together actually demonstrate little to nothing,” Republicans said.
The N.R.A. had no immediate comment on the report upon its release Friday morning but has insisted in recent days that its leadership did not support the Moscow trip, which was ostensibly an effort to foster closer ties between gun-rights supporters but became a primary focus of various congressional inquiries. The group’s delegation included both a former and a future N.R.A. president, and they visited two officials sanctioned by the American government at the time: Dmitry Rogozin, then a deputy prime minister, and Igor Shchyogolev, a special assistant to Vladimir Putin, the Russian president.
While the N.R.A.’s leadership has tried to distance itself from the delegation, email traffic and a flurry of transactions reviewed by The New York Times earlier this week undercut those claims. The Democrats’ report cast further doubt, highlighting a letter from Allan Cors, then the N.R.A.’s president, on N.R.A. letterhead, in which he wrote that two of the trip’s attendees “will represent the N.R.A. and its five million members.” The letter was written to Alexander Torshin, a political patron of Ms. Butina.
New detail emerged in the report about the extent to which Ms. Butina and Mr. Torshin gained trust in the N.R.A. In email traffic, Donna Keene, the wife of an N.R.A. board member and former president, referred to them as “dear friends” and said building ties to Russia was “N.R.A. business.”
Pete Brownell, who was first vice president of the N.R.A. board when he attended the Moscow trip, learned ahead of time that Ms. Butina had ties to the F.S.B. Paul Erickson, a Republican operative and a boyfriend of Ms. Butina, told Mr. Brownell in an email that Ms. Butina had “moved heaven & earth” with the F.S.B. to secure Mr. Brownell a tour of an arms factory. Mr. Erickson said Ms. Butina was able to expedite the process “probably because most of the F.S.B. agents ‘assigned’ to her want to marry her.”
Democrats also raised concerns about Mr. Brownell and other attendees pursuing personal business interests on what was ostensibly a good-will tour backed by the N.R.A., though Republicans said blending private and N.R.A. business on a trip was not inappropriate.
Ryan Repp, a spokesman for Mr. Brownell’s company, the gun retailer Brownells, said in a statement that Mr. Brownell “sought out and obtained compliance guidance, including checking with the government, and followed that guidance before, during and after the trip.”