President Trump on Monday blamed the strife-ridden National Rifle Association’s financial woes on New York’s governor and attorney general, alleging without elaboration that they were “illegally” trying to ruin an organization that was one of his major boosters during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Trump’s allegation in a morning tweet came after the NRA ousted its president, Oliver North, over the weekend, citing confrontations with board members and donors over what they called exorbitant payments to a law firm, a lawsuit against the group’s longtime public relations firm and news reports about alleged financial mismanagement.
In his tweets, Trump acknowledged the “internal fighting” at the gun-rights organization but suggested actions taken by New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) and New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) were at the root of its troubles.
“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,” Trump wrote. “It must get its act together quickly, stop the internal fighting, & get back to GREATNESS — FAST!
James has opened an investigation into the tax-exempt status of the organization, which is chartered in New York, that has included the issuance of subpoenas.
In a statement later Monday, her office said James is “focused on enforcing the rule of law.”
“In any case we pursue, we will follow the facts wherever they may lead,” the statement said. “We wish the President would share our respect for the law.”
The NRA, meanwhile, has been involved in litigation with Cuomo over a directive last year urging insurance companies, state-chartered banks and other financial services companies to review their relationship with the NRA and consider whether those ties “harm their corporate reputations and jeopardize public safety.”
In a recent fundraising solicitation to its members, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, cautioned that Cuomo’s “strong-arm tactics” were causing a growing number of banks and insurance companies to refuse to do business with the organization.
As part of an internal power struggle, LaPierre has accused North of seeking to extort him.
Cuomo responded to Trump later Monday, writing that “74,600 Americans have died from gun violence since you were elected.”
“You have done nothing but tweet about it,” Cuomo said. “Unlike you, NY is not afraid to stand up to the NRA. As for the NRA, we’ll remember them in our thoughts and prayers.”
During the 2016 presidential election, the NRA spent more for Trump than did any outside group and began its efforts earlier than in any other presidential cycle.
A comparison by The Washington Post of ad spending between 2012 and 2016 found that the gun-rights organization spent more than three times as much money to assist Trump as it spent backing GOP nominee Mitt Romney in 2012, airing 4.5 times as many individual ads.
Trump has remained a strong booster of the organization, most recently appearing at its convention last week in Indianapolis along with Vice President Pence.
In a tweet later Monday morning, Trump wrote that residents are “fleeing” New York because of “high taxes and yes, even oppression of sorts.”
He falsely claimed that state leaders did not fight a provision in the Republican tax bill that he signed into law in late 2017 that limited the ability of residents of high-tax states, such as New York, to deduct local tax payments on their federal returns.
Had they fought the provision, Trump said, New Yorkers “could have won.”
Trump also wrote that the “NRA should leave and fight from the outside of this very difficult to deal with (unfair) State!”
Though chartered in New York, the NRA has its headquarters in Virginia.
Katie Zezima and Colby Itkowitz contributed to this report.