It typically takes a mass shooting to keep the National Rifle Association this quiet.
As of this writing, the NRA has issued no public comment about this week’s arrest and indictment of Maria Butina, a 29-year-old Russian gun rights activist who had spent years ingratiating herself with the NRA, as well as Republican politicians and conservative notables. Butina is suspected of conspiracy to act as an unauthorized agent of the Russian Federation within the United States without the authorization of the Attorney General.
And yet all we hear from the notoriously outspoken group is crickets.
The NRA contributed $30 million to help elect Donald Trump in 2016. The FBI has been investigating whether some or all of that cash may have been supplied by Russia. Rolling Stone reported in April that the Russian central banker Alexander Torshin, along with Butina, had deeper ties to the NRA than previously known. The NRA even flew a delegation to Moscow in 2015 to meet with Kremlin officials, including one freshly sanctioned by the Obama administration.
One member of that delegation, disgraced former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, filed an ethics report in February 2016 showing that $6,000 of his trip expenses were paid for by Butina’s group, The Right to Bear Arms. The recently departed NRA president, Pete Brownell, covered $14,000 of Clarke’s airfare and visa expenses. The details continue to trickle out.
And yet, the NRA hasn’t said one word either in Butina’s defense or to distance itself from her and Torshin, Butina’s alleged handler who has also been hit by U.S. sanctions. On Wednesday, a new court filing alleged that Butina was sexually involved with an American connected to the NRA, which media reports have identified as veteran Republican operative Paul Erickson. More importantly, the court memo alleged that Butina had been in contact with the Russian intelligence agency FSB, which replaced the more infamous KGB. As Rolling Stone reported in April, Torshin received a medal from the FSB in 2016.
Butina pleaded not guilty, and her attorneys even tried to argue that she wasn’t a flight risk because she remained in the United States following the publication of Rolling Stone’s investigation. The judge didn’t buy it, and Butina will be jailed until her trial.
In late June, NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch attempted a deflection, repeating Trump’s false accusation that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took $145 million from Russia and later herself colluded with the Kremlin. Two months ago, NRATV host Dan Bongino called reports of NRA-Russia ties a “fairy tale.”
Most fairy tales don’t end with orange jumpsuits and jail time.
Rolling Stone reached out to the NRA on Thursday, via phone and email, to request official comment on the Butina case — as well as the prior words of some of its employees.
As you may have guessed, the NRA has not responded to Rolling Stone’s request, nor has the organization commented to any other outlet as of this time. If and when we receive a comment, we will update this post.