The House Democrats have a new investigation in their sights. According to ABC News, the latest House probe will look into the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the "complex web of relationships" between its members and Russians connected to the Kremlin. Among other things, the lawmakers will look into how much money the group received from Russian sources and if that money was used for the group's 2016 election campaigning.
Rep. Ted Lieu of California and Rep. Kathleen Rice of New York wrote a letter to the NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre, and a copy was given to ABC News. In it, they ask about the organization's role in planning a trip to Moscow in December 2015, when the group's then vice-president and a past president visited a Russian pro-gun group with Kremlin connections. The organization had tried to distance itself from the trip, but internal emails show that the NRA did embrace the trip and even paid for some of the travel.
This is part of what troubles the members of Congress. "We are disturbed by the lack of transparency the NRA has demonstrated surrounding the December 2015 trip to Moscow," Lieu and Rice wrote. "Furthermore, we are concerned that this extends to other allegations that have been made against the organization as it relates to Russia."
In the letter, the two reps ask the NRA for copies of communications, meetings, and monetary transactions between the NRA and individuals with Russian links. "How much money did the NRA receive from Russia or Russia-linked individuals or entities during the 2016 election cycle?" they wrote. "Did the NRA use any of that money in their 2016 election campaign contributions?" They also underline how much of that money went to electing Trump, some $30 million.
Bustle reached out to the NRA for comment. In response to ABC News, the organization's outside counsel William Brewer said in a statement that the group would comply. "Although the NRA has not yet received the letter, the Association, naturally, will respond to all appropriate information requests," Brewer told ABC News. "The NRA is working diligently to supply information in response to several requests for information, and will continue to do so."
This letter is not the first time that Lieu and Rice have expressed their concern about the Russia-NRA connections, but it is the first time they've been in a position to do something about it, as part of the House Majority. In May 2018, they wrote to the FBI asking for an investigation.
Scrutiny of the NRA and the Moscow trip has only grown since then, as Maria Butina, the alleged Russian agent who planned the trip on behalf of the Russian pro-gun group, was accused of being a foreign agent operating in the United States. She has since agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy and to cooperate with prosecutors.
This is the second investigation into the NRA on the matter. Oregon's Sen. Ron Wyden, the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, has been preparing his own investigation into the trip. "It’s not credible for the NRA to claim that they played no official role in the 2015 Moscow trip," he told ABC News.
The House Dems' probe could carry more weight, though, given that Democrats are in control in that chamber and have subpoena power.