The NRA is already thrashing in a death spiral of legal recriminations after a leadership battle over possible fraud and misconduct detonated on the front page of the news, all that following the fact that Russian intelligence agent Maria Butina had thoroughly compromised the NRA leadership in order to help Trump in 2016.
And now we find out things get worse for both the NRA and Donald Trump as the Senate Finance Committee's report on the organization flat out calls them a foreign asset for Russia.
The National Rifle Association acted as a "foreign asset" for Russia in the period leading up to the 2016 election, according to a new investigation unveiled Friday by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.
Drawing on contemporaneous emails and private interviews, an 18-month probe by the Senate Finance Committee's Democratic staff found that the NRA underwrote political access for Russian nationals Maria Butina and Alexander Torshin more than previously known — even though the two had declared their ties to the Kremlin.
The report, available here, also describes how closely the gun rights group was involved with organizing a 2015 visit by some of its leaders to Moscow.
Then-NRA vice president Pete Brownell, who would later become NRA president, was enticed to visit Russia with the promise of personal business opportunities — and the NRA covered a portion of the trip's costs.
The conclusions of the Senate investigation could have legal implications for the NRA, Wyden says.
Tax-exempt organizations are barred from using funds for the personal benefit of its officials or for actions significantly outside their stated missions. The revelations in the Senate report raise questions about whether the NRA could face civil penalties or lose its tax-exempt status.
Attorneys general in the state of New York and the District of Columbia are conducting separate probes into alleged wrongdoing at the gun rights organization. These probes have a broader scope than the Senate report, which focuses on Russia.
Senate Republicans quickly attacked the report as "innuendo" and suggested the NRA shouldn't face any penalties, even if they did anything wrong. But Wyden's report is absolutely brutal.
The report indicates that top NRA officials were aware of Butina's and Torshin's links with the Kremlin even as they sought to work more closely together under the banner of gun rights.
In an email later circulated to two senior NRA staff members, Butina wrote that a purpose of the 2015 Moscow trip was that "many powerful figures in the Kremlin are counting on Torshin to prove his American connections" by showing he could bring prominent NRA officials to Russia.
At another point, Butina suggested to participants on the 2015 NRA trip to Russia that she might be able to set up a meeting between them and President Vladimir Putin, referring to him as "Russia's highest leader."
Despite these declarations about their ties to the Russian government, NRA officials paid for and facilitated Torshin and Butina's introduction into American political organizations.
Butina and Torshin received access to Republican Party officials at NRA events.
It was a explicit interest expressed by Butina: In one 2015 email to an NRA employee, Butina wrote, "is there a list of U.S. governors or members of Congress that might be present at some time during the [NRA] annual meeting?"
The employee responded with a list.
The NRA also helped them forge connections with groups such as the Council for National Policy, the National Prayer Breakfast, the National Sporting Goods Wholesalers Association and Safari Club International.
"NRA resources appear to have been used to pay for membership and registration fees to third party events for [Torshin and Butina] as well as to arrange for transit to and lodging for many of those events throughout 2015 and 2016," the report states.
Let's recap this here, folks.
The NRA knew they had Russia intelligence assets in their midst.
They wanted the NRA to help the Republican party and Donald Trump, along with several other GOP candidates and politicians and offered them Russian business contacts for donations to the NRA, which is flamingly illegal.
In return, the NRA paid for the Russians to attend events and gave them access to sitting members of Congress and US governors, again, super, super illegal.
The Senate report concludes the NRA did all this knowingly.
And the best part?
Donald Trump still has no problem working with them.