Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team likely gained access to the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) tax filings as part of its investigation into Russian collusion in the 2016 presidential election, McClatchy reported.
According to legal experts who spoke with the news agency, the special counsel’s team would access the organization’s tax filings through the IRS as a “routine” part of its investigation. This would reveal the names and contributions of the NRA’s “dark money” donors.
The names of “dark money” donors are typically hidden on public documents and have been a focus of the Russia probe since it was first suggested in May that donors whose names were hidden might have used the NRA to “secretly fund” President Donald Trump’s election.
Former Justice Department official Michael Zeldin said that checking the NRA’s tax returns likely was not a result of this focus, but rather “basic blocking and tackling” on the part of Mueller’s team.
Ohio lawyer David F. Axelrod told McClatchy that he also thought the request for filings was standard procedure, noting that prosecutors make such requests “entirely in the background, with no notice to the subject of the investigation.”
$21 million donated by these “dark money” donors make up a large percentage of the $30 million in total that the NRA contributed to the president’s campaign.
One donor, in particular, Alexander Torshin, was linked directly to the Russia investigation earlier this year.
Torshin is the deputy governor of the Central Bank of Russia and a lifetime NRA member.
The Senate Judiciary Committee released a document in June stating it would investigate Torshin for reportedly funneling money to the Trump campaign through the NRA and also for attempting to arrange a meeting between then-candidate Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“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,” the document said.
“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.”