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Federal Election Commission launches investigative probe into the NRA — here's why

The FEC has launched a preliminary probe into the NRA to determine whether the organization accepted illegal campaign contributions. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The Federal Election Commission has launched a preliminary investigation into the National Rifle Association to determine whether the pro-Second Amendment organization received illegal contributions from Russian entities intended to benefit the Trump campaign in 2016.

What happened?

According to Politico, the probe was launched in part after a liberal advocacy group, American Democracy Legal Fund, filed a complaint urging the FEC to investigate potential links between the NRA, campaign contributions to President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign and Russian entities, including at least one person with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The NRA and its lobbying-arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, together spent $30 million to support Trump in 2016.

The FEC's probe will likely require the NRA to turn over "closely guarded internal documents and campaign finance records," according to Politico. From there, depending on what lawyers discover, the FEC could impose fines, launch a full-blown investigation or make a criminal referral to the Department of Justice, sources said.

The FEC's initial inquiry follows a request from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, who recently wrote the NRA a letter asking them to provide campaign finance documents.

According to Politico, Wyden wants to determine whether Russian entitles funneled money through the NRA to "inappropriately and illegally" influence the 2016 presidential election.

"I am specifically troubled by the possibility that Russian-backed shell companies or intermediaries may have circumvented laws designed to prohibit foreign meddling in our elections by abusing the rules exempt organizations," Wyden wrote, Politico reported.

He also asked the organization to turn over any documents detailing donations or contributions from Russian operatives or businesses.

Neither the FEC nor the NRA commented on the probe.

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