New York and DC Attorneys General Investigations

NRA Trial Day 9: Week Two of the NRA Trial is in the Books

January 19, 2024

Today in Court

The trial began today with the conclusion of testimony from former NRA chief lobbyist Chris Cox (notes on his testimony from yesterday can be found here). Former board member Judge Philip Journey was the next witness called by the New York Attorney General (“NYAG”).

Quick Summary of Today’s Testimony

  • Chris Cox testified today that he thought Andrew Arulanandam, who is set to take the mantle as Wayne LaPierre’s interim successor as NRA Executive Vice President later this month, has “terrible” political judgment and is “lazy in core competencies.” Cox reiterated testimony from yesterday that he had previously warned LaPierre that Arulanandam, then working under Cox at NRA-ILA, was not competent. Cox said that he had told LaPierre that LaPierre could hire Arulanandam at the NRA, but that Cox did not want Arulanandam at NRA-ILA.
  • The next fact witness called by the NYAG was former board member and current board candidate Judge Philip Journey, a Kansas state court judge.
    • During the NRA’s failed bankruptcy filing, Journey petitioned the bankruptcy Court to appoint an independent examiner to conduct an investigation of fraud at the NRA and make that report available to the public.
    • Journey previously testified at the bankruptcy trial, saying in an especially dramatic moment that he has come to realize the NRA “essentially operated as a kingdom rather than a corporation” and that it was “Wayne’s kingdom.” He added that “[i]t became clear that corporate governance and […] the systems of checks and balances were essentially non-existent” and the state of compliance “was worse than I ever imagined.” 
    • After serving on the NRA board in the 1990s, Journey testified that he decided to return to the board after the public crisis at the 2019 NRA Annual Meeting: “the NRA needed some help.” Journey said that he “threw up a little” the first time he read the NYAG’s complaint against the NRA, noting that he knew of “financial issues” when he was on the board in the 1990s that gave him even greater concerns.
    • To that end, Journey was shown a report entitled “Money Spent at Variance with Board Financial Policy” that had been compiled in the 1990s by two then-board members during Journey’s first stint on the board. The report noted, among other things, that the requirement that contracts over $100,000 need approval of the President and a VP before approval was “habitually ignored by management.” Journey testified that multiple current board members were on the board back then and would have received the report. Journey stated that the state of board oversight and internal controls was “better back then than it is now.”
    • Journey also testified to the ways in which the board generally, and he specifically, were impeded from exercising meaningful oversight over management. He noted that the committee set up to oversee the NRA’s legal challenges “never issued a report” or minutes of its activities and that the board was allowed only “limited” review of a contract for LaPierre before approving it. He detailed that only two physical copies of LaPierre’s contract were provided to the entire board during their January 2021 meeting where they were asked to ratify it, and that the members had to take turns quickly reading it, with Journey noting that there were “fifteen people behind” him, and that board members wanted to “go to lunch.” Journey testified that he never saw the contract it was replacing, despite asking John Frazer to see a copy. Journey also said that “NRA attorneys” called him the organization’s “greatest enemy” at a board meeting after he publicly opposed the NRA’s bankruptcy. 
  • Yesterday, Wayne LaPierre’s attorney asked the court for accommodations regarding his testimony due to his ongoing health problems, especially requesting that LaPierre’s testimony be limited to the morning or that the NYAG prepare alternative witnesses in the case that LaPierre was having a bad day. This morning, LaPierre’s counsel filed letters from LaPierre’s doctors justifying the request.
    • Outside of the presence of the jury, Judge Cohen raised the letter submitted to the court docket last night concerning Wayne LaPierre’s health and his ability to testify for long periods of time. The Judge asked counsel to confirm that the request was not that LaPierre would not be able to testify at all, with counsel replying “that’s the hope” and “so far so good.” Judge Cohen indicated he was inclined to be flexible on how long, and when LaPierre testifies. Counsel for the NYAG asked for additional documentation of the medical condition, and noted the unfairness of springing this on the court in the middle of trial. 

Analysis

During his testimony over two days, Chris Cox repeatedly confirmed wide speculation that the organization, including LaPierre himself, was preparing for Cox to succeed LaPierre as NRA Executive Vice President. He also repeatedly delivered negative assessments of his former staffer Andrew Arulanandam, who is soon-to-be interim EVP. It is remarkable to hear that the well-known former heir apparent told LaPierre years ago that he thought the current, little known heir apparent was not competent and had “terrible” political judgment.

The defendants’ cross examinations of Chris Cox did little to undermine his accounts of NRA dysfunction.

Phillip Journey’s testimony reiterated much of what he had testified during the NRA’s failed bankruptcy: the state of internal controls and board oversight was terrible and his efforts to engage in oversight were opposed by management. As Journey has previously testified, “There’s been a pattern that I believe is easily established, where if a board member questions a position, they lose their committee assignments and then they’re effectively ostracized, and they basically say, ‘well, I’m not getting paid for this’ and leave.”

What’s Next?

The trial will resume on Monday morning at 9:30am with the continued video testimony of former NRA President and longtime board member Carolyn Meadows. Special Note: Today’s summary includes bullets from testimony taken in the morning trial session. We will update this post on Monday with happenings from the Friday afternoon session.

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.