Many people think it is unusual that the National Rifle Association (NRA) has heard nothing from the FBI or the Mueller investigation concerning the funneling of Russian money through the NRA into Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Since NRA contacts with Russia have been documented, and since the NRA contributed $30 million to Trump’s bid to become president, it has been widely thought that the FBI and Mueller would seek to interview NRA officials to obtain more information.
But now, according to new information from McClatchy, there appears to be a very simple explanation. Legal experts say it is routine for investigators to seek court approval to gain access to the NRA’s tax returns from the Internal Revenue Service. And it appears that is exactly what Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team of investigators have done as part of their search for information about Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
According to McClatchy, tax returns disclose ‘dark money’ donors:
“On the NRA tax returns, the group was required to identify its so-called “dark money” donors — companies and wealthy individuals who financed $21 million of the group’s publicly disclosed pro-Trump spending, as well as its multimillion-dollar efforts to heighten voter turnout. The NRA’s nonprofit status allows it to shield those donors’ names from the public, but not the IRS.”
Since it is a violation of federal law for foreign money to be spent influencing U.S. elections, the list of NRA donors would give Mueller clues about the possible use of shell companies that had been used to hide the fact that the contributions to the NRA originated in Russia.
When prosecutors ask judges for access to tax information this is done “entirely in the background, with no notice to the subject of the investigation,” said David Axelrod, a former Justice Department Tax Division Attorney. This means that when Mueller obtains access to tax records nobody knows about it.
Since the federal investigators have all the information they need from the information filed with the IRS they have no need to interview NRA employees. Mueller is focusing on money contributed to the NRA by Alexander Torshin, deputy governor of Russia’s central bank and a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. It is believed that he arranged for at least $21 million of Russian money to go to the NRA and they in turn contributed the money to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
The NRA has previously admitted to taking money from Russian members but have said that all such contributions were within legal requirements.