Senate Democrats on the Judiciary Committee have released a report of “preliminary findings” about the Trump campaign’s infamous meeting with Russians at Trump Tower seeking “incriminating information on Secretary Clinton.” The report raises more questions than it answers: “We still do not know,” it reads, “the full story about the June 9 meeting at Trump Tower or, more broadly, the degree to which the campaign cooperated or communicated with Russia.”
The report catalogs many unresolved issues: “A meaningful investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election must include a thorough exploration of the following open questions,” it says. Number five on that list: “Russia’s Connection to the National Rifle Association.”
This section of the report is pithy and worth quoting in full:
“The Committee has obtained a number of documents that suggest the Kremlin used the National Rifle Association as a means of accessing and assisting Mr. Trump and his campaign. Two individuals involved in this effort appear to be Russian nationals Alexander Torshin and Maria Butina. Mr. Torshin is a Putin ally and the Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Russia, and Ms. Butina served as his assistant. She also founded Right to Bear Arms, the Russian equivalent of the NRA, and started a business with former Trump supporter and adviser Paul Erickson. Both Mr. Torshin and Ms. Butina have longstanding ties to ex-NRA president, David Keene, and in 2013, hosted him in Russia for a pro-gun conference.
“During the campaign, Mr. Torshin, Ms. Butina, and their intermediaries repeatedly offered the campaign back channels to Russia and relayed requests from President Putin to meet with Mr. Trump. The Kremlin may also have used the NRA to secretly fund Mr. Trump’s campaign. The extent of Russia’s use of the NRA as an avenue for connecting with and potentially supporting the Trump campaign needs examination.”
This section concludes with the disclosure that the Senate Judiciary Committee has been stonewalled by key witnesses: “Requests for documents and staff interviews have been sent to Ms. Butina, Mr. Erickson, and Mr. Keene, but they have refused to cooperate.” But the report suggests that others in government may, by now, have more information, revealing that Butina – the assistant to the now-sanctioned Torshin – has been “testifying before other Committees.”
Even so, Judiciary Democrats, led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, warned that GOP obstructionism was preventing the committee from getting to the heart of the matter: “Without the cooperation of Republicans and the ability to subpoena witnesses,” they said in a statement, “much of the truth remains hidden.”