ABC News Obtained Dozens of Pages of Email Correspondence Revealing Butina’s Efforts to Arrange Meeting Between High-Ranking NRA Members and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov
Butina, Who Has Been Charged With ‘Conspiracy to Act as an Agent of the Russian Federation Within the United States Without Prior Notification to the Attorney General” and Acting as a Foreign Agent, Appeared in Court Today for a Status Hearing
WASHINGTON ― Everytown for Gun Safety today released the following statement after ABC News reported obtaining dozens of pages of email correspondence between August 2015 and November 2016 that reveal Maria Butina’s efforts to arrange a meeting for a delegation of high-ranking members of the NRA with one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest advisors, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, “and working with the Outdoor Channel to develop a television show highlighting Putin’s ‘love of the outdoors’ that would feature the Russian President himself.”
STATEMENT FROM JOHN FEINBLATT, PRESIDENT OF EVERYTOWN FOR GUN SAFETY:
“With each new revelation, the web connecting the NRA to the Kremlin grows thicker — and the list of questions about why the NRA placed so much trust in Maria Butina grows longer. NRA leaders need to break their silence before the next story breaks about their ties to Putin’s Russia.”
- In December 2015, Butina hosted an NRA delegation in Moscow, which included then-future NRA President Pete Brownell; former NRA President David Keene; NRA-affiliated political operative Paul Erickson, who is romantically linked to Butina; Joe Gregory, an NRA Golden Ring of Freedom charter member; Sheriff David Clarke; and president and CEO of Outdoor Channel, Jim Liberatore. According to ABC News, “Emails suggest Butina was eager to add Lavrov, the powerful Russian foreign minister, to their schedule, and according to one of the members of the delegation, the meeting took place.”
- Butina was working with Liberatore and Keene to get Russian President Vladimir Putin to appear on the Outdoor Channel. According to ABC News, Liberatore sought Butina’s help in developing a show about President Putin’s outdoorsmanship as early as August 2015, when former NRA president Keene wrote an email to Butina introducing Liberatore as a potential addition to their Moscow trip. The NRA has also produced multiple programs on the Outdoor Channel. According to ABC, the Outdoor Channel later appears to have lost faith in Butina when she could not secure Putin’s participation in the series.
- Butina was allegedly working to arrange “for an official delegation of Russian Kremlin cabinet ministers to travel the U.S. to observe your presidential election in the fall” Butina wrote in June 2016. According to ABC News, Butina said, “This matters to your project because THEY have already lobbied President Putin to do this show as an example of the kind of relationship Russia could have with America … and with President Trump.”
- In an email exchange with Outdoor Channel in which Butina boasted about her access to President Putin, ABC News reports that “Perhaps the most notable detail in this exchange is buried in the email signature — Butina suddenly lists herself as the ‘President’ of Bridges LLC, the mysterious South Dakota shell company she established with Erickson, who told McClatchy DC it was used to defray her educational expenses.”
The NRA reported spending a record $55 million on the 2016 elections, including $30 million to support Donald Trump – nearly triple what the group spent during the 2012 presidential race. Most of that money was spent by an arm of the NRA that is not required to disclose its donors, and according to a McClatchy report from January, NRA spending may have actually exceeded $70 million during the 2016 election.