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Who Else Was Handling Russian Money in 2016?

The interference went well beyond the president*'s campaign.

"We already know the winning presidential campaign was redolent of herring and vodka." (Photo: Getty)

"We already know the winning presidential campaign was redolent of herring and vodka." (Photo: Getty)

Life is full of wonderful surprises, like this little goodie bag from the McClatchy folks.

The FBI is investigating whether a top Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin illegally funneled money to the National Rifle Association to help Donald Trump win the presidency, two sources familiar with the matter have told McClatchy. FBI counterintelligence investigators have focused on the activities of Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank who is known for his close relationships with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the NRA, the sources said.
It is illegal to use foreign money to influence federal elections.

So, here’s the horse, but the barn is waaaaayyyyy over there. Still, this is a fascinating development.

Disclosure of the Torshin investigation signals a new dimension in the 18-month-old FBI probe of Russia’s interference. McClatchy reported a year ago that a multi-agency U.S. law enforcement and counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s intervention, begun even before the start of the 2016 general election campaign, initially included a focus on whether the Kremlin secretly helped fund efforts to boost Trump, but little has been said about that possibility in recent months. The extent to which the FBI has evidence of money flowing from Torshin to the NRA, or of the NRA’s participation in the transfer of funds, could not be learned. However, the NRA reported spending a record $55 million on the 2016 elections, including $30 million to support Trump – triple what the group devoted to backing Republican Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential race. Most of that was money was spent by an arm of the NRA that is not required to disclose its donors.

It is a savory irony that Wayne LaPierre, the savior of all that is clean and good in America, may be tied into the Volga Bagmen. But it’s coming time to wonder how much Russian money was sloshing around the entire Republican Party in 2016, and around the conservative infrastructure generally.

We already know the winning presidential campaign was redolent of herring and vodka. There also is more than a little evidence that various Russian oligarchs and kleptocrats were generous to Republican campaigns in general. Now, it seems, the various interest groups and issue organizations may have had their hands out, too. The only thing that stops a bagman with a bag is a good guy with a bag.

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Charles P. Pierce

Charles P. Pierce

Charles P. Pierce is a writer-at-large for Esquire and his work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the LA Times Magazine, the Nation, the Atlantic, Sports Illustrated and The Chicago Tribune, among others.

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