Bombshell email reveals NRA link to attempted 'back-channel meeting' between Trump and Putin during campaign
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses members of the National Rifle Association during their NRA-ILA Leadership Forum during at their annual meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, May 20, 2016. (REUTERS/John Sommers II)

A conservative operative reportedly worked to set up a "back-channel meeting" between then-candidate Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin during the 2016 campaign -- and he planned to use a National Rifle Association convention to do it.

The New York Times reported on Sunday that it had obtained May 2016 email correspondence titled "Kremlin Connection" that was exchanged between conservative operative Paul Erickson and Trump campaign adviser Rick Dearborn.

According to the Times:

In it, the N.R.A. member said he wanted the advice of Mr. Dearborn and Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, then a foreign policy adviser to Mr. Trump and Mr. Dearborn’s longtime boss, about how to proceed in connecting the two leaders.

Russia, he wrote, was “quietly but actively seeking a dialogue with the U.S.” and would attempt to use the N.R.A.’s annual convention in Louisville, Ky., to make “‘first contact.’” The email, which was among a trove of campaign-related documents turned over to investigators on Capitol Hill, was described in detail to The New York Times.

In the email, NRA member Paul Erickson said that he wanted to get the advice of then-campaign adviser Jeff Sessions about a meeting between Trump and Putin.

"Putin is deadly serious about building a good relationship with Mr. Trump," NRA member Paul Erickson wrote in the email. “He wants to extend an invitation to Mr. Trump to visit him in the Kremlin before the election. Let’s talk through what has transpired and Senator Sessions’s advice on how to proceed.”

The email was one of several overtures Russians made to the Trump campaign even before the GOP candidate had secured the nomination.

"Another contact came through an American advocate for Christian and veterans causes, and together, the outreach shows how, as Mr. Trump closed in on the nomination, Russians were using three foundational pillars of the Republican Party — guns, veterans and Christian conservatives — to try to make contact with his unorthodox campaign," the paper notes.