Dark Money: Trump, Russia, & the NRA.

This week, the Department of Justice charged a Russian national, Maria Butina, on conspiracy to act as an unregistered foreign agent for setting up a secret line of communication with Republican Party leaders through the NRA. While we don’t know much about the case yet, we do know that Butina allegedly spent years cultivating relationships with the NRA in an effort to advance the Russian governments agenda. It should be noted that Butina pleaded not guilty to all charges.

During the 2016 election, Butina bragged that she had been a part of the Trump campaign’s communications with Russia, according to the indictment. In that same time, the NRA spent more than $35 million on political ads from unnamed donors – raising concerns in the FBI that Russia could be behind it.

This is a shocking example of a much bigger problem. With increasing signs of Russian interference in our elections and President Trump refusing to denounce Putin, dark money in politics play a particularly insidious role in undermining our democracy. Forty percent of political ads run by outside groups do not report their donor list.

Foreign agents and special interest groups like Butina and the NRA are exploiting loopholes in campaign finance laws, creating a shroud of secrecy and corruption in our political system.

The Trump Administration is doing nothing to fix the system. In fact, they are actively making it more corrupt. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced Monday that the government is no longer requiring dark-money groups to reveal their donors.

Read more in CAP experts Alex Tausanovitch and Diana Pilipenko’s op-ed on how the Trump Administration is corrupting our political system to cover up its dark money relationship with Russia.

AMERICANS SEE: IT’S TRUMP FIRST, NOT AMERICA FIRST.

Even as the White House desperately tried to salvage some dignity from Trump’s disgraceful press conference with Putin, they shocked the country again by confirming that they might hand over an innocent American to Putin for interrogation.

Calling Putin’s proposal to question former Ambassador to Russia and Putin critic, Michael McFaul, an “incredible offer,” Trump signaled that he has no willingness to protect Americans and our diplomats serving in Russia from the from their government, despite its history murdering dissidents. Not only would Trump not stand up for America to our adversaries, he’d sell out those who do.

If this strikes you as a “Trump First” foreign policy instead of “America First,” you’re not alone—a new Navigator poll finds that 56% of Americans, including 66% of independent voters, agree.