Activists are demanding the National Rifle Association (NRA) reveal if it received donations from Russia, after it was reported the FBI is investigating whether a Kremlin-linked Moscow businessman channelled money to the group’s campaign to help Donald Trump win the election.
With the influence of the NRA under mounting scrutiny following a school shooting in Florida and the campaign led by students to change the country’s gun laws – campaigners say it is vital that investigators uncover if the powerful lobbying group group used any Russian money to help elect Republican members of Congress and Mr Trump during the 2016 race.
It is against the law to use foreign money in federal election campaigns.
It emerged after the permanent select committee on intelligence at the US House of Representatives released a transcript of the sworn testimony of former Wall Street Journal reporter Glenn Simpson.
Mr Simpson – who works for consulting firm Fusion GPS, was asked to research then presidential candidate Donald Trump in 2015/16.
As first reported by BuzzFeed the Podesta Group announced Friday that it has retained law firm Caplin & Drysdale to investigate whether or not the lobbying firm unwittingly did work for the pro-Russian political party in Europe that also hired Manafort.Although the Podesta Group was founded by Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta – he has not been involved with the lobbying firm that bears his name for years.His brother Tony Podesta is currently chairman of the firm.
According to an Associated Press report the controversy centers around Rick Gates – the Trump campaign’s liaison to the Republican National Committee and a Manafort ally who also did work for the pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.
As part of his work for the Ukrainian political party Gates connected the Podesta Group with the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine – a non-profit whose board originally contained Ukrainian members of parliament from the pro-Russian party.
Controversy surrounding Manafort’s ties to the pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians prompted his resignation on Friday – part of a larger campaign shakeup that included the hiring of a new campaign manager and campaign CEO.
A New York Times story published last Sunday detailed how secret ledgers discovered in Kiev earmarked a total of $12.7 million in cash payments to be delivered to Manafort.
The former Trump campaign chairman said he never received any such money.
Working on behalf of the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine the Podesta Group lobbied in Washington for positions favored by the pro-Russian political party of which deposed former President Viktor Yanukovych was a member.
The lobbying work ended in 2014 after Yanukovych fled Ukraine for Russia – where he remains in exile.
In the statement released by the Podesta Group CEO Kimberley Fritts said the firm had retained counsel to investigate whether or not the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine had been operating as a front for the pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.
Lobbyists are required by law to register with the Justice Department if they are representing in the United States a foreign political leader or party and failure to register is a felony.