Just one day after President Donald Trump addressed the National Rifle Association (NRA) leadership conference last week, the infamous gun lobbying organization imploded. Over the weekend, the NRA’s recently installed president Oliver North was ousted, its longtime lawyer Steve Hart was suspended and the New York State Attorney General’s office announced it had launched an investigation into the group’s nonprofit status.
Almost on cue, the president on Monday tweeted support, and a veiled warning, for the organization.
“The NRA is under siege by 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” wrote Trump on Twitter. “It must get its act together quickly, stop the internal fighting, & get back to GREATNESS – FAST!”
Support from the president will prove paramount as the NRA navigates mounting legal hurdles, financial woes (the group hemorrhaged $46 million in 2016) and an ongoing civil war. Although the NRA spent roughly $30 million to help Trump’s 2016 campaign, the president has publicly challenged the organization many times while in office.
Following the Parkland shooting last February, the president accused a GOP lawmaker of being “afraid of the NRA” for not supporting a federal age limit for purchasing firearms.
“Somebody can buy a handgun at 21,” said the president. “Now this is not a popular thing to say in terms of the NRA, but I’m saying it anyway.”
Most recently, the Trump administration rolled out federal regulation in December banning bump fire stocks—the same device a shooter used to alter a semi-automatic rifle and massacre 59 people in Las Vegas in 2017. The NRA was largely silent on the issue, but did say it was “disappointed” by the measure.
Vexed with a new state investigation, the gun lobbying juggernaut desperately needs support from Trump, giving him even more influence to pull the gun lobbyists in whatever direction he wants.