A Russian politician has spent the last several years forging deep bonds with leaders of the National Rifle Association, documenting his relationship with the organization along the way, NPR reports.
Alexander Torshin is a deputy governor of the Bank of Russia, a former Russian senator, and an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Police in Spain believe Torshin directs financial transactions for the Russian mob, and McClatchy reported in January that the FBI is investigating whether he illegally funneled money to the NRA in order to help President Trump's campaign. Torshin joined Twitter in 2011, and since then, NPR says, he has used his verified account to tweet about how he used his NRA connections to meet Trump in 2015 and serve as a foreign election observer in Tennessee in 2012.
NPR translated many of Torshin's Twitter messages from Russian into English. In response to comedian Larry David calling Trump a racist in 2015, Torshin wrote: "I know D. Trump (through NRA). A decent person." He later added that he "saw him in Nashville" in April 2015, the same time and place that year's NRA convention was held. Torshin is a lifetime NRA member, and his Twitter timeline reveals that he attended every NRA convention from 2012 to 2016 and has met every head of the organization since 2012. In 2015, he tweeted he was in the U.S. when former President Barack Obama was re-elected, and "the NRA card, to me as an observer from Russia, opened access to any [polling] station."
The NRA and Torshin both did not respond to NPR's request for comment. For more on Torshin's deep ties to the NRA and its leaders, and why experts think Russia is trying to infiltrate the NRA, visit NPR. Catherine Garcia