In the latest chilling confluence of Russia and the U.S. government, a startling 2013 Russian video has emerged featuring Donald Trump’s pick to become national security adviser, John Bolton, promoting Russian gun rights for a Kremlin-connected banker who is reportedly being investigated by the FBI.
The Bolton video was distributed by a gun rights group co-founded by Russian citizen Alexander Torshin, according to National Public Radio, which unearthed the video. Torshin is a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the deputy governor of the Bank of Russia.
Torshin, who also served in the Russian government, is the focus of an investigation by the FBI to determine if he illegally funneled Russian funds to Trump’s campaign through the NRA, McClatchy has reported. It’s illegal to use foreign funds to influence federal elections.
The U.S. Federal Election Commission launched a similar probe to determine if the NRA was acting as a conduit for illegal Trump campaign funds, Politico reported.
Torshin, who served as the deputy speaker of Russia’s Parliament for more than a decade and was on Russia’s National Anti-Terrorism Committee, reached out to members of the Trump campaign through the NRA, according to McClatchy. He also hosted dinners for NRA executives during their trip to Moscow in 2015.
The NRA spent a record amount on 2016 elections, including $21 million to back Trump and $14 million to attack his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
Torshin helped create the NRA’s Russian equivalent, The Right to Bear Arms, which sponsored the Bolton video. The former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations urged the Russian government to change its constitution to allow gun rights similar to those in America.
A source close to Bolton told NPR that he was originally asked to record the video by then-NRA President David Keene. At the time, Bolton was a member of the NRA’s international affairs subcommittee, according to NPR.
On the video, Bolton praises a “new era of freedom” in Russia on the 20th anniversary of the adoption of its constitution.
“Were the Russian national government to grant a broader right to bear arms to its people, it would be creating a partnership with its citizens that would better allow for the protection of mothers, children and families without in any way compromising the integrity of the Russian state,” Bolton says on the video. “That is my wish and my advice to your great people.”
Bolton appeared in the video shortly after a Right to Bear Arms conference was held in Moscow. Alan Gottlieb, the founder of the U.S.-based Second Amendment Foundation, who attended the conference, told NPR that he assumed the event was supported by the Russian government — otherwise it would not have taken place.
Keene spoke at the conference of his close ties with Torshin, who regularly tweeted about his visits with Keene over the years, according to NPR.
The NRA recently revealed that it has been responding to questions from the FEC about campaign contributions as part of the FEC investigation but has denied any wrongdoing.
In response to a letter from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) concerning his fears of illegal campaign contributions being funneled through the NRA, the gun lobbying organization responded that, as a “longstanding policy to conform with federal election law, the NRA [does] not accept funds from foreign persons or entities in connection with United States elections.”
Wyden followed up with several specific questions, including requesting the identities of NRA members who are Russian nationals, and information about how donors and donations are vetted.