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NRA now officially part of Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election influence

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CNN is reporting special counsel Robert Mueller is now probing the relationship between Russia and the National Rifle Association (NRA).

The NRA got behind Trump very early in the game and was able to fundraise millions and millions more than they typically raise for elections, setting a record for the organization. Their haul was helped in part by a single donation of $19.2 million in 2016 from an undisclosed “individual.”

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“When I was interviewed by the special counsel’s office, I was asked about the Trump campaign and our dealings with the NRA,” former Trump aide Sam Nunberg told CNN.

“The special counsel’s team was curious to learn more about how Donald Trump and his operatives first formed a relationship with the NRA and how Trump wound up speaking at the group’s annual meeting in 2015, just months before announcing his presidential bid,” CNN cited what Nunberg told them.

Alleged Russian spy Maria Butina founded a pro-gun advocacy group that partnered with the NRA and other pro-gun advocates throughout the election. She pleaded guilty in December to conspiracy against the United States and admitted she attempted to infiltrate the Republican Party and GOP circles to have an impact on US-Russia relations. She also worked to build relationships with powerful influencers in the NRA.

Former American Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, explained that the NRA was a very easy conduit to the GOP and to Trump.

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“She believed she was trying to meet people that may be close to a future president in the Republican circles,” McFaul explained. “The NRA is a logical choice there and she had success.”

“Americans traveled to Russia, she attended these meetings,” he continued. “She was close to senior people on the Russian side, including [ Russian politician] Aleksandr Torshin, a person I used to work with when I was in the government.”

“Nobody knows where he is today by the way,” McFaul said with a knowing smile. “Back then he was in the Putin circles. This idea of a back channel and influence and contacts is something I’ve seen when other Russian delegations had the same mandate.”

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Authoritarian expert Sarah Kendzior called the NRA — and Republicans general — “pathetic” for being duped.

“Its a pretty pathetic look for the NRA and the Republicans that they are, on the one hand, this easily manipulated, but also complicit,” Kendzior said. “There are voluntary participants in this. They are people who will be indicted themselves for failing to register as foreign agents.”

The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee has already asked the NRA to turn over key documents.

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Former NRA President Wayne Lapierre resigned his position before the stories began to break about the NRA’s connections to Russia.

The NRA continues to refuse to comment on any of the investigations or allegations, which prompted MSNBC host Rachel Maddow to rip them to shreds.

The story is developing…

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Giuliani’s public invitation to Ukraine to interfere in US elections opened the door for other countries to run to Trump

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President Donald Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani turned heads with his bizarre, unhinged rant on national television that effectively urged Ukraine to continue trying to gather dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden — and for news outlets to take whatever they find seriously.

As Casey Michel wrote in The Daily Beast, even if this effort ultimately fails to turn up useful opposition research against Biden, this is a profoundly dangerous development for American democracy.

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Trump whistleblower needs to go directly to FBI because Bill Barr can’t be trusted: Ex-FBI director

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Appearing on MSNBC with host Alex Witt, former FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence Frank Figliuzzi blew up Donald Trump's claim that he is the victim of a "Ukraine Witchhunt."

He then added that the whistleblower who went to the inspector general with a serious charge against the president should take what he has and go to the FBI within a week if nothing happens.

"We've got to get to the bottom of this, and we can't rely on leaks and certain reporters getting certain tidbits of information," the ex-FBI man explained. "This needs to be explored and it's likely this could end up in a criminal investigation."

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Trump took out DNI head Dan Coats to install a new acting director in charge of whistleblowers: CIA veteran

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Appearing on MSNBC's "AM Joy," a longtime veteran CIA official said the whistleblower, who ran to the inspector general with a complaint about Donald Trump asking Ukraine's president for dirt on Joe Biden, should expect the president and his aides to come after them.

Speaking with host Joy Reid, Jonna Mendez said she saw the first warnings signs that something was up in the U.S. intelligence community when the president forced DNI head Dan Coats and his top deputy out.

"Through the lens of someone who spent 27 years at the CIA, the thing that caught my eye instantly was Dan Coats' resignation follow by Sue Gordon," Mendez explained. "The fact that Dan Coats went into a meeting and said 'Sue, you've got to resign' and that she did, truncating a career that clearly hadn't reached its zenith."

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