Deep within the 966-page Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Russian interference in the U.S. political process, released August 18, a Nashville lawyer who formerly served as attorney to the campaign of U.S. Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn makes several cameo appearances.
Kline Preston, IV is a long-time Nashville attorney — a graduate of the Nashville School of Law — who practices out of offices on Harding Pike near Belle Meade.
While he defends clients in Nashville accused of DUI and companies in contract disputes, he also works as a lawyer in Russia. Among his clients: Alexander Torshin, a Russian banker and prominent political figure who “established a broad network of relationships with leaders of the National Rifle Association (NRA), conservative political operatives, Republican government officials, and individuals connected to the Trump campaign,” according to the committee report.
It was Preston’s relationship with Torshin, and Torshin associate Maria Butina, that caught the attention of the Senate committee. Preston was not, in the committee report, identified as committing any crimes or facilitating election or political interference.
Preston told The Tennessean in 2018 it was he who first introduced Torshin to David Keene, NRA’s then-president.
“Torshin registered as a life member of the NRA on February 10, 2012,” the report said. “The membership lists the email address of Igor Matveev, a Russian diplomatic official with whom he travelled to the United States in 2012, and G. Kline Preston’s phone number,” the report said.
The report probed the web of relationships that followed.
In 2012 Preston invited Torshin to Tennessee to observe the U.S. Presidential Election. Meanwhile, Torshin continued his relationship with NRA officials. In 2013 several NRA members, including its then president David Keen, visited Moscow at Torshin’s invitation to attend a conference hosted by Butina. Torshin also attended a subsequent meeting with NRA representatives in Moscow in 2015, according to the report.
“Over time, Butina and Torshin gained further access to U.S. conservative political circles and met prominent Republican figures such as a Republican candidate for president, a Republican Congressman, and Donald Trump, Jr.” The report did not name the candidate or Congressman.
Butina, who founded a Russian gun rights organization, was sentenced in April 2019 to 18 months in prison for conspiring with Russian officials to access the National Rifle Association and other U.S. groups without registering with the Justice Department.
Preston, reached Friday by email, responded: “Can you please send me the parts of the Senate Report in which I was mentioned?” but did not respond to further emails or a text seeking comment.
Kline Preston Law Group represented the Blackburn campaign in 2005 during an investigation into possible campaign finance violations. Preston’s law firm also worked in an unspecified capacity for Blackburn’s campaign between 2005 and 2007. Preston’s wife, Tiffany, also worked for the campaign between 2004 and 2006. Preston has also represented MDSave, a Brentwood healthcare company started by Blackburn’s son-in-law, Paul Ketchel.
Representatives for Sen. Marsha Blackburn, a Republican, have previously said that “Russia is not our friend” and that the Congressman “thinks we need to treat Russia like a bully.”
Read the full Select Committee on Intelligence report, searchable by key words, here.