Washington, D.C., July 16, 2018 – Just hours after President Donald Trump stood next to Russian president Vladimir Putin and cast doubt on Russian involvement in the 2016 election, the Department of Justice announced the arrest of Maria Butina, charging her with conspiracy to act as an agent of the Russian Federation. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence expressed deep alarm, noting Butina’s history and involvement with the National Rifle Association.
"Saying we have serious concerns about a Russian national with deep ties to the NRA, an organization that helped fund and elect President Trump, being arrested on charges of espionage doesn't go nearly far enough,” stated Brady Campaign co-president Avery Gardiner. “The NRA says it is the President's 'most unflinching ally,' and we demand that the NRA's leadership answer, at once, long-standing questions about their organization's Russian connections, especially as to the 2016 campaign."
On October 4, 2016, U.S. Person 1 sent an email to an acquaintance. The email covered a number of topics. Within the email, U.S. Person 1 stated, “Unrelated to specific presidential campaigns, I’ve been involved in securing a VERY private line of communication between the Kremlin and key POLITICAL PARTY 1 leaders through, of all conduits, the [GUN RIGHTS ORGANIZATION].” Based on my training, experience, and familiarity with this investigation, I believe that this email describes U.S. Person 1’s involvement in BUTINA’s efforts to establish a “back channel” communication for representatives of the Government of Russia.
Butina, who is regularly described as a gun rights activist, has long and deeply-documented ties to the NRA. In April 2018, Rolling Stone reported:
In early 2014, U.S.-Russia relations were cratering, following the invasion of Crimea. Torshin helped steer the legislation that officially annexed the territory, appearing with Putin at a Kremlin signing ceremony. But his relationship with the NRA was sunnier than ever. “Republicans are the bones of the NRA,” Torshin tweeted in February. “Great political victories are ahead of you!” At the 2014 convention in Indianapolis, Butina met with the highest-ranking officers of the NRA – including, Rolling Stone can report, Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s executive vice president. She presented a plaque from Right to Bear Arms to then-NRA president Jim Porter, tweeting, “Mission accomplished.” Her tour through the conservative elite included snapping selfies with former GOP presidential candidates Bobby Jindal and Rick Santorum.
As a guest of [former NRA president David] Keene, Butina joined the rituals of the Golden Ring of Freedom, even ringing the NRA’s liberty bell. “To the right to bear arms for citizens of the whole world,” she said as the bell sounded. Her first American trip, she blogged, culminated in “an experience at the Washington office of the NRA.” Standing before the group’s blue-glass headquarters, she posed for a photo with Keene.
In light of today’s announcement, it is even more important than ever for the NRA to immediately disclose the identities of all political contributors - especially if they may have Russian ties.
Brady has one powerful mission — to unite all Americans against gun violence. We work across Congress, the courts, and our communities with over 90 grassroots chapters, bringing together young and old, red and blue, and every shade of color to find common ground in common sense. In the spirit of our namesakes Jim and Sarah Brady, we have fought for over 45 years to take action, not sides, and we will not stop until this epidemic ends. It’s in our hands.