The National Rifle Association is distancing itself from a controversial December 2015 trip to Moscow by several prominent NRA leaders and members, telling The New York Times on Monday that NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre "was opposed to the trip" and forbade staff members from going. LaPierre convinced the NRA president at the time, Allan Cors, to drop out of the trip, NRA lawyer William Brewer III said in a statement Wednesday, "in order that the group was not viewed as representing the NRA."
"Given Mr. LaPierre's power within the organization, it is unclear how such a trip would have proceeded at all despite his opposition to it," the Times notes. And in fact, ABC News reports, "internal NRA emails and photos posted on social media" appear to show that the NRA "was significantly involved in planning it."
"It's not credible for the NRA to claim that they played no official role in the 2015 Moscow trip," Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) told ABC News on Tuesday. Wyden is heading one of at least four inquiries into the NRA's ties to Russia, focused on whether the gun-rights group illegally used Russian money to help President Trump's campaign and influence the 2016 election. The Moscow trip was organized by Maria Butina, a Russian who pleaded guilty to trying to help Moscow use the NRA to influence American politics, and former NRA President David Keene.
Internal emails show that the NRA paid for at least Keene's travel expenses and provided official NRA "gifts" for the delegation's Russian hosts. The NRA members met with Butina's alleged Kremlin handler, Russian Central Bank deputy governor Alexander Torshin, plus Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozi. And Torshin had dangled a possible interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin before Keene, according to an email obtained by The Daily Beast. Read more about the emails and NRA tensions over the trip at ABC News and The Daily Beast.