A Russian bank official kept the Kremlin updated on efforts to cultivate ties to the NRA in hopes of influencing U.S. politics, according to an intelligence report.
Alexander Torshin, who was then deputy governor of Russia’s central bank, and his protegée Maria Butina aggressively courted NRA leaders, and they kept senior Russian government officials updated on their efforts, reported The Daily Beast.
The website reviewed a U.S. intelligence report showing that Torshin briefed Kremlin officials and recommended they participate in his influence operation.
“This reporting indicates that Alexander Torshin was working with the blessing of the Kremlin, at a minimum,” one European intelligence official told the website. “The NRA is quite powerful, so when you look to influence U.S. politics, you should consider them as a convenient target."
The 30-year-old Butina pleaded guilty last month to conspiring to act as a foreign agent under the direction of a Russian official identified as Torshin, who recently retired from the Central Bank of Russia.
The newly revealed intelligence report is based on conversations from 2015, before NRA leaders visited Moscow on a trip organized by Torshin and Butina.
The report shows Torshin suggested Russian officials reach out to American political figures through the NRA due to its strong influence, and the banker urged someone from President Vladimir Putin's executive office to meet with the group.
“My assessment of what was happening with Torshin and Butina and the NRA was that the Russians decided, a good period of time before 2016, to run an influence operation here in the U.S. with a couple of different goals,” said Steve Hall, who oversaw the CIA's Russia operations. “The obvious goal was the one the intelligence community assessed back in 2016, which was to help Donald Trump win and increase the likelihood that Hillary Clinton would lose. In addition, they wanted to create as much chaos in our democracy as possible.”