A National Rifle Association member sent an email to the Trump presidential campaign with the subject line "Kremlin Connection," saying he could arrange a back-channel meeting with Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin, the New York Times reported on Sunday.
“Putin is deadly serious about building a good relationship with Mr. Trump,” wrote NRA member and conservative activist Paul Erickson in the May 2016 email to Trump advisers Rick Dearborn and Jeff Sessions. “He wants to extend an invitation to Mr. Trump to visit him in the Kremlin before the election. Let’s talk through what has transpired and Senator Sessions’s advice on how to proceed.”
Russia was “quietly but actively seeking a dialogue with the U.S.” and would try to use the NRA’s annual convention in Louisville, Kentucky, to make “first contact," wrote Erickson in the email, which was part of a collection of documents that was turned over to Congressional investigators, the Times said. It's not if Dearborn took him up on the offer.
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On Friday, Mike Flynn, Trump's former White House foreign-policy adviser, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the presidential transition. But the NRA email predates that by several months.
"The emailed outreach from the conservative operative to Mr. Dearborn came far earlier, around the same time that Russians were trying to make other connections to the Trump campaign," reported the Times. "Another contact came through an American advocate for Christian and veterans causes, and together, the outreach shows how, as Mr. Trump closed in on the nomination, Russians were using three foundational pillars of the Republican Party — guns, veterans and Christian conservatives — to try to make contact with his unorthodox campaign."
The NRA was one of Trump's biggest backers, spending tens of millions on his election campaign.
Business Insider reporter Natasha Bertrand pointed out on Twitter that the Trump campaign received several emails with Russia-related subject lines that we know about, including “Kremlin Connection," "Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite" and "Russia - Clinton - private and confidential."
A running list of actual subject lines of emails sent to the Trump campaign last year:— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) December 3, 2017
1) “Kremlin Connection"
2) "Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite"
3) "Russia - Clinton - private and confidential"https://t.co/T9HV7QNgLW