The FBI is now investigating a top Russian banker with connections to the Kremlin, suspecting that he illegally funneled money to the National Rifle Association to help elect President Donald Trump.
This is the latest in the 18-month-long FBI investigation to uncover if the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to help secure a presidential election win in 2016.
The banker in question is Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia's central bank, who has close relationships with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the NRA.
The extent of the evidence against Torshin and the NRA is currently unknown, as is the length of time Torshin has been under investigation.
Regardless, it is clear that a few things have prompted the investigation.
In 2016, the NRA reported spending $55 million during the election — an unprecedented amount. Additionally, the NRA spent $30 million in support of Trump, a vehemently outspoken supporter of gun rights, which is triple that of what the group contributed to Republican candidate Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election. The majority of Trump's $30 million came from a part of the NRA that is not required to disclose where its donated money originated.
The exact number that the NRA spent on the 2016 election has been nothing short of wishy-washy. While it reported spending $30 million on Trump, on the books the group shows an additional $25 million being spent. However, sources close to the gun lobby claim that the real total is nearly $70 million.
Furthermore, in 2016, Torshin was also implicated in money laundering by judicial authorities in Spain. A roughly 500-page report claimed that Torshin used his role as senator to aid mobsters who were laundering money through Spanish establishments. A summary of that still secret 500-page report obtained by McClatchy also labels Torshin as a "godfather" in a massive Russian criminal organization called Taganskaya.
In 2013 Spanish authorities completed a three-year probe into Russian mob activity in their country. In their confidential report they alleged that Torshin helped a Russian mob syndicate in Moscow launder money https://t.co/dh9yWskCKC— Tim Mak (@timkmak) January 18, 2018
Torshin, who has long been a supporter of the NRA, spoke to Donald Trump Jr. during an NRA event in 2016 after his father had secured an "earlier-than-usual NRA presidential endorsement," according to McClatchy. He tried, unsuccessfully, to schedule a meeting between the then-presidential candidate and Putin in 2016, The New York Times reported. Later, he tried to meet privately with candidate Trump.
According to intel assessments, Torshin is part of a years-long "aggressive Kremlin effort to forge alliances" w/top GOP figures, including those close to the WH. The NRA is a major conduit of influence here... and possibly also a cash conduit.— Caroline O. (@RVAwonk) January 18, 2018
TIMELINE— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) January 18, 2018
April 2015: Trump meets with Putin associate Torshin at the NRA conference.
June 2015: Trump announces his run.
July 2015: Trump tells Torshin's assistant (Maria Butina) he will drop sanctions on Russia, and he says it *on camera*.
Below, Caroline has posted the video. https://t.co/o3bAPqnUiv
Alexander Torshin has referred to himself as a "long-time acquaintance" of Trump.— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) January 18, 2018
Not Don Jr.—Trump.
The two men met at an NRA event not long before Trump announced his candidacy.
This new development in the Russia investigation comes shortly after Robert Mueller subpoenaed former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon this week. Bannon has agreed to cooperate as long as the meeting can take place at the special counsel's offices as opposed to the federal court.
Not much else has been released about Torshin's investigation, as it remains confidential for the time being. While we do not know much, it's safe to say that this new information is concerning at best. Torshin's ties to both Trump, Russia, and the NRA are all red flags. Furthermore, his money laundering in Spain seems almost like an eerie foreshadowing of what is suspected of Russia's interference in the 2016 U.S. election.
We will surely hear more in the coming weeks.
Banner / Thumbnail : Reuters, John Sommers II