New York and DC Attorneys General Investigations

NRA Trial Day 15: On His Second-To-Last Day As NRA CEO, LaPierre Again Took The Stand

January 30, 2024

Today in Court

The examination of NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre concluded this morning. The jury was then introduced to Defendant John Frazer, current NRA General Counsel. Frazer’s testimony continued through the afternoon.

Summary of Today’s Testimony

  • Today was LaPierre’s third day on the stand and his testimony was relatively brief. In testimony solicited by his own attorney related to “free safaris,” LaPierre explained the NRA was primarily viewed as a gun rights organization, and that he “wanted to project” the group as a ”hunting organization” in order to obtain more members and donors. LaPierre admitted to his “reputation” in that regard, saying: “I was not seen as a hunter.” As a self-described “novice,” LaPierre viewed the safari trips he went on as an NRA executive as a way to “develop the street cred.” “I needed to be seen as a hunter,” LaPierre said, “walk the walk, talk the talk.” LaPierre testified that during the hunts, he “wouldn’t take a shot without it being on camera.”
    • When asked about his compensation as NRA CEO, LaPierre claimed there were executive salary studies that he had reviewed and that his pay was “in the middle range.” 
    • LaPierre testified that he “felt really bad about stepping down” as NRA CEO, but that his health has declined to a point where his doctor’s strongly advised him to stop working. 
  • The NYAG then questioned defendant John Frazer, the General Counsel of the NRA.
    • Frazer agreed that he was the “top lawyer” at the NRA responsible for recognizing and minimizing legal risks. To do that, Frazer agreed that he needed to be informed.
      • Yet, Frazer confirmed that Wayne LaPierre authorized the first lawsuit against longtime vendor Ackerman McQueen in 2019 without informing Frazer. He agreed that the resulting lawsuits were “very costly.” 
      • Further, Frazer testified that LaPierre “sidestepped” Frazer in announcing the bankruptcy filing. Frazer admitted he was told “that day” (i.e., the day of the bankruptcy filing). Despite being the NRA’s “top lawyer,” Frazer was not involved in the decision to obtain outside counsel for the bankruptcy proceedings.
    • The NYAG showed Frazer several NRA regulatory filings showing legal expenses for management ballooning from around $300,000 in 2015 to $38 million in 2022. During the same time, the exhibits confirmed that NRA legal expenses for program services (i.e., advocacy work) declined from $4.2 million to $1.7 million. Moreover, Frazer confirmed that the NRA paid the Brewer law firm approximately $100 million between 2018 and 2022, and admitted that he never “added it all up” like that.
      • Frazer acknowledged that despite calls from board members, there was never an independent audit done of the Brewer firm’s legal bills.
    • Frazer testified that the Board’s Audit Committee has primary responsibility over potential conflicts and disclosure of those conflicts, but that his office also was involved in collection and analysis of conflicts disclosures.
      • In terms of a trip to the Taj Mahal or designer suits from a vendor (both issues raised with respect to CEO Wayne LaPierre), Frazer testified that “I would report it, personally.”
      • Frazer said he did not look into disclosures made by LaPierre, and potential violations of the NRA’s policies, because “it was already subject of this litigation.” 
      • Frazer provided one example of a potential conflict that the Audit Committee reviewed — grant funding for former board president Pete Brownell’s Crow Shooting Supply — he said that the funding was ratified without an RFP, and one was later supplied.
    • When asked whether Wayne LaPierre had breached the trust of NRA members by violating the organization’s policies, Frazer testified, “I’d have to say probably yes.”

Analysis

The jury heard for the third straight day from NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre. With his last day as head of the organization tomorrow, one can imagine that taking the stand in court and hearing the NRA General Counsel testify that LaPierre breached the trust of NRA members is not the send off party LaPierre envisioned for his three decades of running the NRA. The jury is likely to hear again from LaPierre during the defendants’ portion of the trial. 

Today’s testimony by John Frazer painted a picture of a chief legal officer that was largely out of the loop on big legal decisions, and an organization that had largely given control of such legal decisions to the outside Brewer law firm. The revelation of spending over $100 million with the Brewer firm was significant, especially when compared to the declining spending on advocacy litigation.

What’s Next?

The trial will resume Wednesday morning at 9:30am with the continued testimony of NRA General Counsel John Frazer. The NYAG has indicated that it intends to call NRA board member and former 1st Vice President Willes Lee.

Disclaimer: The following summaries and analysis are prepared by individuals at the courthouse listening to the testimony being offered in the New York Attorney General’s case against the NRA. These summaries do not purport to cover every fact or occurrence discussed during the trial. The posts may be updated as soon as transcripts are available from the court, including to cross-reference specific testimony.