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Senate Intelligence Panel: Russians schemed to help elect Trump through the NRA

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 30:  Senate Select Intelligence Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Burr (R) (R-NC) and ranking member Sen. Mark Warner (L) (D-VA) listen to testimony during a hearing of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee March 30, 2017 in Washington, DC. The committee heard testimony on the topic of "Disinformation: A Primer in Russian Active Measures and Influence Campaigns."  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Politico and The Daily Beast are reporting that Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate Intelligence panel on Wednesday voiced bipartisan backing for the U.S. intelligence assessment that the Russian government sought to elevate the candidacy of Donald Trump while harming Hillary Clinton. In particular, the Kremlin used the NRA as a vehicle to helping Trump, writes the Daily Beast.

“The Committee has obtained a number of documents that suggest the Kremlin used the National Rifle Association as a means of accessing and assisting Mr. Trump and his campaign,” said a report on the committee’s preliminary findings on Russia and the presidential campaign. While the report didn’t discuss the documents, it said two Russian nationals—Alexander Torshin and Maria Butina—were “involved in this effort.” Torshin, a member of Russia’s central bank, hosted an NRA delegation in Moscow in 2013. Butina, founder of a pro-gun group in Russia, boasted at a Washington, D.C. party following the election that she was “part of the Trump campaign’s communications with Russia,” The Daily Beast reported last year.

The bipartisan effort is a direct rebuttal of the GOP House Intelligence panel’s conclusion last month that while Russia wanted to disrupt election, its efforts did not favor Trump.

The [House] report charges the intelligence community with “significant intelligence tradecraft failings,” suggesting, without saying explicitly, that Russia’s main goal was to sow discord in the United States and not to help Trump win the election.

This story is still developing but it also appears to provide a greater context for the Senate Judiciary’s release of some 2,500 documents related to the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between top Trump campaign chiefs and a Kremlin-linked lawyer and other Russian operatives.

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