Last week, purported lifetime NRA member Maria Butina pleaded guilty to “conspiracy to act as an agent of the Russian Federation within the United States without prior notification to the attorney general.” According to the plea agreement, Butina sought to establish unofficial lines of communication with Americans having power and influence over American politics, including a gun rights organization reported to be the NRA.
This week marks five months since Butina was first arrested and charged with acting as an unregistered foreign agent, while allegedly using the NRA in order to advance the Kremlin’s agenda. Since Butina’s arrest five months ago, the NRA has issued no public comment about its relationship with Butina and ties to Russia, even as her plea agreement sheds new light on the NRA’s 2015 delegation trip to Moscow.
According to Butina’s plea agreement (emphasis added):
“Butina also invited powerful members of the Gun Rights Organization to Moscow to advance her agenda. Before they arrived, U.S. Person 1 provided Butina with background information on the invitees, including his assessment on their degree of political influence in the United States. The members came to Moscow in December of 2015. During the trip, the Gun Rights Organization members met with high-level Russian government officials as arranged by Russian Official. Prior to the visit, Butina stressed the importance of a political program as part of the trip and asked Russian Official to set up meetings with high-level Russian politicians. After their visit, Butina sent Russian Official a message in Russian, referring to members of the Gun Rights Organization, which has been variously translated as saying, ‘We should let them express their gratitude now, we will put pressure on them quietly later,’ and ‘We should allow them to express their gratitude now, and then quietly press.’”
So, will the NRA finally come clean and begin to answer questions, or not?