The Republicans refused to investigate it, and the House Intelligence Committee Report ignored it.
But one of the biggest stories coming out of Washington this week was confirmation of the role of the National Rifle Association (NRA) in helping Russia funnel massive amounts of money into the Trump campaign in 2016.
Emails recently came to light proving that an NRA official served as conduit between Russia and the Trump campaign, but Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee refused to address this scandal in their incomplete and misleading report.
Democrats released their own 98-page minority report, discussing the emails and accusing Republicans of failing to pursue key lines of evidence. They say that the GOP members of the committee ignored the most pressing questions about the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, including the role of the NRA.
The minority report describes in detail Russian efforts to make a “first contact” with Trump’s campaign organization by way of an intermediary at the NRA named Rick Erickson.
In an email included in the minority report, Erickson was shown reaching out to a longtime senior advisor to Jeff Sessions (and a senior Trump campaign official) named Rick Dearborn.
The NRA operative told Dearborn in May of 2016 that the Kremlin was very interested in not only making contact but creating a sustained relationship with the Trump campaign, including a back-channel to allow communication between Trump and Putin.
“I’m now writing to you and Sen. Sessions in your roles as Trump foreign policy experts / advisors,” Erickson wrote in the email. “Happenstance and the (sometimes) international reach of the NRA placed me in a position a couple of years ago to slowly begin cultivating a back-channel to President Putin’s Kremlin.”
Erickson also described Russia’s covert efforts to create relationships with Republican politicians throughout America. “Russia is quietly but actively seeking a dialogue with the U.S. that isn’t forthcoming under the current [Obama] administration,” he wrote.
“And for reasons that we can discuss in person or on the phone, the Kremlin believes that the only possibility of a true re-set in this relationship would be with a new Republican White House. Putin is deadly serious about building a good relationship with Mr. Trump.”
The email also explained how Russia was going to use the NRA’s annual convention as a tool to establish contact with Trump’s campaign.
According to the minority report, they have emails which prove that “the effort to establish a back-channel between Russia and the Trump campaign reached key officials including Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr., campaign manager Paul Manafort, deputy campaign manager Rick Gates, and then-foreign policy adviser Jeff Sessions.”
But Republicans refused to look at any of this evidence and completely ignored it in their majority report.
The NRA has been accused of channeling Russian money to the Trump campaign before, and now that there is concrete evidence proving this, the Republicans are refusing to investigate it. And the numbers are staggering.
The NRA spent an estimated $35 million on the 2016 presidential election, including $21 million to support Trump’s campaign and another $14 million to attack Hillary Clinton.
It appears that the NRA got most of this money directly from Russia, which of course is illegal.
Luckily, the FBI is investigating the NRA’s finances, with a specific focus on the Russians who funneled money through the NRA. Also, the FEC is investigating Russian entities that gave illegal donations to the NRA that were directed to the Trump campaign.
The NRA initially denied that it received foreign contributions. However under mounting evidence, they were forced to admit that it had accepted money from at least 23 Russian sources.
The Democratic minority report says that “Republican committee members refused to investigate whether Russian-linked intermediaries used the NRA to illegally funnel money to the Trump Campaign.”
If Republicans think that ignoring the problem is going to make it go away they are wrong. Their majority report was intended to absolve the Trump campaign of any wrongdoing allowing the president to once again tweet “NO COLLUSION” but it backfired.
The Republicans, in attempting to whitewash the issue of the NRA receiving Russian money to give to Trump, have inadvertently highlighted it and raised many more questions. America deserves answers to these questions, but will have to wait until the Democrats take back Congress to receive them.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.