In an investigation published by Mother Jones on Thursday, ties between the NRA and two Russians who were accused by the FBI of carrying out a malevolent political influence operation inside the U.S. were revealed.
Federal prosecutors said that the goal of the conspiracy by the two Russians (gun activist Maria Butina and Alexander Torshin) was to get access to top Republicans, including then-presidential candidate Donald Trump, and to "advance the interests of the Russian Federation." Butina and Torshin spent time cultivating the NRA and were welcomed by the association with open arms.
In a video from 2013, the then-NRA leader David Keene was seen enthusiastically embracing the Russians and cooperating to help them build up a new Russian gun-rights group. Keene was president of the organization from 2011 to 2013.
In fall, 2013, Keene traveled to Moscow for a meeting about 200 gun-rights advocates hosted by The Right to Bear Arms, a group set up by Butina. Keene gave an eight-minute speech at the meeting.
He said, "It’s a great honor for me to be here today partly because over the course of the last three years, I’ve hosted your senator, Alexander Torshin, at the National Rifle Association annual meetings."
He also spoke of the size of the NRA and encouraged the small Russian groups to continue growing. "More and more people will rally to the cause that you have,” he says, later adding: “There are no people that are more alike than Americans and Russians. We’re hunters, we’re shooters—we value the same kinds of things. And we need to work together to the extent that we can on these and other important issues."