Trump accuses New York attorney general of illegally investigating NRA

Trump calls on powerful gun lobby to "get its act together quickly" to counter probe by Democrat Letitia James

Published April 29, 2019 5:05PM (EDT)

President Donald Trump speaks at the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action Leadership Forum in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Friday, April 26, 2019. (AP/Michael Conroy)
President Donald Trump speaks at the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action Leadership Forum in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Friday, April 26, 2019. (AP/Michael Conroy)

President Trump on Monday accused the New York attorney general's office of illegally investigating the National Rifle Association and called on the powerful gun lobby group, which has been rocked by an internal leadership fight, to "get its act together quickly."

"The NRA is under siege by [New York Gov. Andrew] Cuomo and the New York State A.G., who are illegally using the State's legal apparatus to take down and destroy this very important organization, & others," Trump wrote in a tweet. "It must get its act together quickly, stop the internal fighting, & get back to GREATNESS - FAST!"

New York Attorney General Letitia James announced on Saturday that her office had launched an investigation into the NRA's finances, including its tax-exempt status, and had issued subpoenas to the group's related businesses, the New York Times reported.

The investigation comes amid an internal clash between the organization's president, Oliver North, and chief executive officer, Wayne LaPierre. North accused LaPierre of financial misconduct centering on more than $200,000 of wardrobe purchases by LaPierre that were charged to an NRA vendor, according to the Wall Street Journal. North announced Saturday that he would not run for re-election after the Journal, The New York Times and The New Yorker detailed allegations of financial mismanagement by top officials at the organization.

The probe also comes nearly a year after James vowed, during her campaign for attorney general last year, to investigate the NRA's status as a nonprofit. Her threat to look into the group reportedly sparked the internal power struggle within the organization and prompted the group to launch an internal review of its finances.

The Journal said New York investigators plan to examine allegations of financial misconduct at the NRA, including the claims North reportedly raised in internal disputes. An attorney representing the group told the New York Times the NRA will "fully cooperate with any inquiry into its finances."

James' office sent letters to the NRA and its affiliated entities to preserve all relevant financial records as part of the attorney general's probe, according to the Times.

Cuomo, the Democratic governor of New York, on Monday responded to Trump's criticism by taking aim at the president's lack of action to curb gun violence, despite the epidemic of mass shootings and the rising number of deaths from firearm injuries in the United States.

"The scourge of gun violence is a national crisis plaguing our country and killing our children. It demands action. And action, Mr. President, requires true leadership," Cuomo said in a statement.

"The only thing illegal is the gun lobby's insurance scheme," he continued. "Unlike you, President Trump, New York is not afraid to stand up to the NRA. I will continue to fight for the children of this state. As for the NRA, we'll remember them in our thoughts and prayers."

James' office on Monday also vowed to "follow the facts wherever they may lead."

"We wish the President would share our respect for the law," the attorney general's team said in a statement.

Cuomo's jab at Trump's inaction on gun control comes just days after the president spoke at the NRA's annual meeting Friday, where he pledged to fight for gun rights and claimed that Democrats "want to take away your guns."

After the February 2018 mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, Trump promised to take action to curb gun violence, noting his support for raising the age for purchasing a firearm.

To no one's surprise, the president ultimately walked back his support for raising the minimum age for purchasing firearms, after he met with NRA leaders who forcefully opposed that proposal, as well as Trump's earlier apparent endorsement of universal background checks for gun purchases.

By Shira Tarlo

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