The ever-intensifying probe into a Russian official and close Putin ally continues to reveal the many ways the Russian establishment has wound its way into American government and political organizations.
Recently, FBI obtained wiretaps of conversations involving Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s Central Bank and who has been accused of being the leading figure behind the Russian mafia. FBI’s interest in Torshin stems from the man’s ties with the National Rifle Association (NRA), which he allegedly used to find a way to the Trump family. Torshin met Trump Jr. at an NRA convention in Louisville, in May 2016, a top Spanish prosecutor said Friday.
Jose Grinda, who has spearheaded investigations into Spain’s organized crimes, confirmed that FBI had requested for the transcripts of conversations between Torshin and Alexander Romanov, a convicted Russian money launderer whom Torshin referred to in their conversations as “El Padrino”, or The Godfather. The Spanish National Police had plans to arrest Torshin in 2013, when he was anticipated at Romanov’s birthday party on the Spanish island of Mallorca. More than a dozen police officers were deployed at the airport according to the arrest plan. However, Torshin never showed up and the Spanish police suspected that he had been tipped off by Russian officials who were requested to cooperate in the inquiry.
Grinda was asked whether Trump Jr. should be alarmed at this situation and he said, “Mr. Trump’s son should be concerned.”
He also expressed his ignorance of FBI’s reasons for asking for the tape. However, he said that if the FBI plans to use these conversations in a court case, they will have to make a more formal complaint.
The comments made by Grinda hint the FBI may use these conversations in Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 US elections. Torshin reportedly had contacts with conservative activists in the United States during the elections. In 2016, Torshin also pushed for a summit between then-candidate Trump and the Russian president, even though it never came to fruition. Despite being linked to Russian money laundering, he continued to visit the U.S. unhindered. He was present for the National Prayer Breakfast in February 2017 where he was scheduled to meet Trump. The meeting was cancelled at the last moment after National Security Council officials raised concerns about Torshin.
FBI suspects that Torshin, who has been a member of the NRA and a regular attendee of its conventions since 2012, may have been part of a network of Russian donors funneling money into NRA for its $30-million political campaign. NRA has denied these claims. An NRA lawyer said that the organization has received only about $2,500 from 23 Russia-linked contributors since 2015. It is now reviewing its association with Torshin.
“Based on Mr. Torshin’s listing as a specially designated national as of April 6, we are currently reviewing our responsibilities with respect to him,” NRA general counsel John Frazer wrote to Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden.
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