Senate Democrats: NRA may have Kremlin ties | News | DW | 16.05.2018
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Senate Democrats: NRA may have Kremlin ties

A US Senate committee released thousands of pages from its investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. The documents raise questions about the possible use of the NRA as a backchannel to the Trump campaign.

The US Senate Judiciary Committee said it had "no doubt" that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential elections on Wednesday. They called Moscow's effort "unprecedented" in a joint statement from Democrats and Republicans as they released over 2,000 pages of documents from their own investigation into the matter.

The documents also illuminated several new aspects of the case, including Donald Trump Jr's testimony to Congress and possible ties between Russian agents and the National Rifle Association (NRA).

"The Russian effort was extensive, sophisticated, and ordered by President Putin himself for the purpose of helping Donald Trump and hurting Hillary Clinton," said Senator Mark Warner.

NRA reportedly in contact with Kremlin

According to US media, parts of the Senate report highlighted the relationship between the NRA and the Russian government. In a document released only by the Committee Democrats, the group said "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."

They point to two specific individuals, including Alexander Torshin, deputy head of Russia's Central Bank, as being involved in the use of the NRA as a back channel between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

The FBI is reportedly probing whether any of the $30 million (€25 million) the NRA donated to the Trump campaign came from Russia.

Donald Trump Jr Can't Recall

Amongst the information in the document are more details of a meeting held in Trump Tower in June 2016 between Trump Jr and a Russian lawyer who had promised "dirt" on Clinton.

When publicist Rob Goldstone set up the meeting, promising incriminating information on Clinton, Trump Jr replied with: "If it's what you say, I love it."

However, during their testimony to the Committee, both Goldstone and Trump Jr downplayed the importance of the meeting, with Goldstone insisting the meeting ended shortly after it began.

Goldstone said that after it became clear the lawyer didn't have anything to offer, Trump Jr ended up "cutting off," the meeting.

"I don't even know for sure who these Russian people were," Goldstone wrote in an apology email shortly after the meeting.

For his own part, Donald Trump Jr told the Senators that he couldn't recall the answers to many of their questions, including inquires about several emails and calls to blocked numbers ahead of the meeting, whether the Russian lawyer offered him documents, whether he had discussed the matter with his father afterwards or if he remembered that an Russian-American lobbyist had also been at the meeting.

The documents also reveal that Goldstone had tried to set up a meeting between then-candidate Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, and that he had sought to promote Trump on Russian social media.

"I noticed your campaign is covered positively almost daily," in Russia, Goldstone wrote to Trump in an email.

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