March 22, 2018

The NRA, John Bolton, and Russian oligarchs. Where have we seen this before? Ostensibly sent to help loosen Russia's more restrictive gun laws, but there's likely more to this sordid story.

Source: NPR

Former U.N. ambassador John Bolton recorded a video used by the Russian gun rights group The Right to Bear Arms in 2013 to encourage the Russian government to loosen gun laws.

The episode, which has not been previously reported, illustrates the common cause that Russian and American gun rights groups were forming in the years leading up to the 2016 election through former National Rifle Association president David Keene. Keene appointed Bolton to the NRA's international affairs subcommittee in 2011.

Russian politician Alexander Torshin helped establish The Right to Bear Arms and cultivate ties with American gun rights groups including the NRA. As a Putin ally, Torshin served as the deputy speaker of Russia's parliament for more than a decade, and also spent time on Russia's National Anti-Terrorism Committee, a state body that includes the director of Russia's internal security service.

The Bolton video appears to be another plank in a bridge built by Russia to conservative political organizations inside the United States. It's unclear why Russian leaders wanted to curry favor with the NRA, but Torshin and Keene appeared to have developed close ties over in the years prior to the 2016 election.

There is some more background information here, by the journalist who first broke this story. Robert Mueller is now investigating whether Russian money went through this group to support Trump. A 2016 story for Bloomberg News asked point blank if Torshin, who fronted the group, was a Russian mobster or central banker? because of alleged money laundering, Putin had made Torshin a deputy minister in the Russian National Bank.

Oh what a tangled web, indeed.

Here is Torshin and the NRA's David Keene in happier times.

Alexander Torshin and NRA board member (and former president) David Keene.

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