I'm the editor for the story on how the FBI is investigating whether Russian money went to the NRA to help Trump. AMA!
UPDATE: Many thanks for your questions! Signing off now.
The FBI is investigating whether a top Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin illegally funneled money to the National Rifle Association to help Donald Trump win the presidency, two sources familiar with the matter have told McClatchy.
I edited the story written by Peter Stone and Greg Gordon: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/article195231139.html
Answering your questions: Viveca Novak, Investigative Editor at McClatchy DC Bureau, Twitter: @vjn
Proof it's me: https://twitter.com/vjn/status/954077669485924352 https://twitter.com/McClatchyDC/status/954083472015900672
That's a lot of "ifs," but even assuming all that, it is a crime to use foreign money to influence U.S. elections. That's one element of the law that was not affected by Citizens United. The NRA could have, and may have, accepted money from just about any domestic source in any amount
Who committed the crime -- the Russians, the NRA, both? What's the penalty?
Here's a good explainer: https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/money.pdf
Maximum penalty is $250K for each instance by an individual, $500K for an organization, and/or five years in prison.
Which of course, begs the question why is my money being spent by the government to investigate whether or not legal activity took place?
As I said, it's illegal for foreign money to be used to influence an election.
How many false, unverified, or unverifiable leads did you have to wade through before putting this together?
Many! There were other elements of the story that we had to drop because we didn't have sufficient confirmation.
Obviously without giving up any sources or anything, what is the reporting process for a piece like this?
And, how did your reporters beat others to the scoop?
This piece had been in the works for more than six months, though for most of that time it was on the back burner. But that's an indicator of the difficulty of nailing down information like this. It requires painstaking development of credible sources over time, and a lot of patience. Peter and Greg are both very experienced reporters who are really, really good at this; I'm lucky to be working with them.
With so many scandals taking place revolving around the highest powers in our government, are you afraid to break these stories? Do you have any protective measures in place for your own personal safety?
The press is under attack on many fronts these days -- and that's disheartening -- but so far, in this country, it's pretty rare for journalists to be physically assaulted for their work. That's not true for so many of our colleagues working abroad, sadly. If/when we start being afraid to write stories that displease our highest government officials, we will have veered into a very dark alley in our nation's history.
If after the investigation ends, the FBI determines that NRA, Russia, and Trump did not collude, will you be publishing a follow up story explaining that?
Many thanks for your questions! Signing off now.
Is there anything reasonable to account for the massive boost in campaign funding from the NRA between 2012 and 2016?
There's a reasonable amount of overlap between the demographics of many of Trump's supporters and those of many NRA members, so it's not entirely surprising that the organization would get behind Trump. It's possible that some deep-pocketed Second Amendment enthusiasts helped fund the NRA's support. The fact that its spending was roughly triple its outlays of four years earlier was certainly attention getting, however.
Is there any evidence that Russian money went to the NRA to help trump?
If so, what is that evidence?
We don't know what kind of evidence the FBI has, or how much. We only know that it is investigating, as we noted. When and if we can learn more, we will publish a follow-up.
All sources from the article were anonymous and Mueller's office declined any comment.
How does this pass for any sort of journalism?
I understand your concern. Sources won't be quoted discussing classified information or an ongoing investigation. But we vet sources internally in making decisions about whether we have enough to publish a piece, and our standards are very high. There are many stories sitting in our system right now, on the Trump-Russia issue and others, that have not been made live because they don't meet our theshhold for sourcing.
Serious question here. If Russian money did go to the NRA. And if The NRA did run ads with that money. And if Trump did not personally know about it. Is there any kind of real crime here? Whether we like it or not, doesn't Citizens United allow for this kind of thing to happen? Bonus question, did the Russians somehow script these NRA ads, or was the money given to them with the NRA retaining creative carte blanche?
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