Michael Reynolds – Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The National Rifle Association has told a leading Senate Democrat that the gun rights group has accepted foreign donations but said that the funds were not used for election-related activities.
The acknowledgment came last week in a newly-disclosed, carefully-worded letter responding to questions from Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, about the organization’s meetings with Russian nationals during the 2016 campaign.
NRA General Counsel John C. Frazer told the senator that while his organization did accept money from foreign donors, those funds were not used in election activities. Frazer also noted that the NRA did, at times, transfer money from non-election-related accounts to those used for campaign activity.
“Transfers between accounts are made as permitted by law,” he wrote.
Wyden responded Tuesday to the NRA letter with more questions.
“I appreciate your assertion that the NRA complies with applicable federal laws,” Wyden wrote in a response to the NRA disclosure. “However it is incumbent on lawmakers to not only investigate compliance with the law, but also to ascertain whether present law provides sufficient safeguards to protect the American political process from foreign influence.”
Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee who also sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, wrote to the NRA following published media reports that said the FBI has been investigating whether Russian money flowed through the NRA to help President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential bid.
The NRA has pushed back on those reports, saying the organization has not been contacted by the FBI.
In the most recent response to Congress, the NRA said it did not move money from foreign donors into the Trump election effort.
The NRA spent over $30 million in support of Trump’s candidacy, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics. That was more than the group spent on all races during the 2008 and 2012 campaign cycles combined.
“Our review of our records has found no foreign donations in connection with a United States election, either directly or through a conduit,” Frazer said in the letter to Wyden.
Wyden’s response included a request for more detailed information on possible foreign donations to other NRA programs, including outreach on digital and broadcast platforms and printed materials. McClatchy’s Washington Bureau first reported that FBI counterintelligence investigators were studying possible Russian funding of the NRA and specifically the activities of Alexander Torshin, a Russian bank official close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Torshin, an NRA member, reportedly traveled to the NRA’s annual meeting in Kentucky in 2016 and met with Donald Trump Jr.
ABC News has been unable locate Torshin for comment.
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