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HomeUncategorizedWayne LaPierre Steps Down From N.R.A. As Trial Prepares to Commence

Wayne LaPierre Steps Down From N.R.A. As Trial Prepares to Commence

In anticipation of a legal battle in New York, Wayne LaPierre informed board members on Friday about his decision to resign from the long-standing leadership position at the National Rifle Association.

After over three decades of steering the N.R.A., which had previously been one of the country’s most prominent lobbying organizations, Mr. LaPierre’s departure comes at a critical juncture, with a corruption trial looming in Manhattan and amidst a legal standoff with Letitia James, New York’s attorney general. Jury selection has already commenced, and Mr. LaPierre has been present in the courtroom for some of it, with opening arguments scheduled for early next week.

Mr. LaPierre’s resignation, effective from Jan. 31, did not result from an agreement with the attorney general’s office, and Ms. James stated on Friday that she anticipates the trial proceeding. Andrew Arulanandam, Mr. LaPierre’s longtime spokesperson, will serve as the N.R.A.’s interim chief executive. The development was initially disclosed by The Wall Street Journal.

“I am announcing my resignation from the N.R.A. with pride in all that we have achieved,” stated Mr. LaPierre during a board meeting in Irving, Texas. “I have been a card-carrying member of this organization for most of my adult life, and I will continue to advocate for the N.R.A. and its mission to uphold Second Amendment freedom. My dedication to our cause burns as deeply as ever.”

The announcement took place during a board meeting in Irving, Texas. The N.R.A. said Mr. LaPierre had attributed his decision to “health reasons.”

Since Ms. James began investigating the organization four years ago amidst reports of excessive spending practices, the N.R.A. has asserted that it has commenced a reform effort. On Friday, the group reaffirmed its commitment to good governance and indicated that it had already received reimbursement, along with interest, for alleged excess benefit transactions from LaPierre.

However, Mr. LaPierre was perceived to be facing a challenging endeavor in attempting to convince a New York judge to retain his position, given the public disclosure of his alleged mismanagement. In anticipation of his departure, Mr. LaPierre elevated Mr. Arulanandam, a longtime ally, late last year.

Now, Mr. LaPierre’s resignation will reshape the Manhattan case, in which Ms. James had been pushing for his removal.

She is still endeavoring to prevent Mr. LaPierre from holding any position within the organization. Additionally, she is seeking financial penalties from him and two other defendants. A former top deputy of Mr. LaPierre, Joshua Powell, reached a settlement with the attorney general’s office on Friday night, agreeing to pay $100,000 in restitution and to be permanently barred from serving as an officer at nonprofits operating in New York.

The financial penalties will be channeled back to the N.R.A., a nonprofit organization founded in New York and falling under Ms. James’s jurisdiction.

“The end of the Wayne LaPierre era at the N.R.A. is a significant triumph in our case,” stated Ms. James in a social media post on Friday afternoon. “LaPierre’s resignation validates our allegations against him, but it will not shield him from accountability. We look forward to presenting our case in court.”

Mr. LaPierre played a pivotal role in reshaping gun culture in America, but the latter half of his tenure at the N.R.A. was marred by scandals and internal turmoil. In recent years, the organization has experienced a downturn.

Membership has dropped from nearly six million five years ago to 4.2 million today. Revenue has decreased by 44 percent since 2016, according to internal audits, and legal expenses have surged to tens of millions annually.

Nevertheless, the gun rights movement has become a pillar of Republican politics during Mr. LaPierre’s leadership at the N.R.A. A temporary ban on assault weapons was enacted early in his tenure; today, such measures are vehemently opposed by Republicans, despite a rise in mass shootings.

Mr. LaPierre’s departure represents the latest unexpected turn in the N.R.A.’s strategy, which has been erratic since he enlisted the services of a Texas attorney, William A. Brewer III, in 2018 as the organization’s principal external legal counsel. Mr. Brewer orchestrated a 2021 bankruptcy filing that was kept confidential from the organization’s general counsel and the majority of its board, and was ultimately dismissed by a Texas judge.

Mr. Brewer, a Democrat, also recently secured the assistance of the American Civil Liberties Union in a federal lawsuit; the lawsuit accuses former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and his administration of abusing their authority by discouraging banks and insurers from engaging in business with the N.R.A.

Mr. LaPierre’s testimony at the trial is expected to heavily focus on his expenditure practices. For over a decade, he frequented a Zegna boutique in Beverly Hills, where he made a purchase of nearly $40,000 during a single visit in May 2004, billing it through an N.R.A. contractor.

He also expended over $250,000 on travel to various destinations including Palm Beach, Fla., Reno, Nev., the Bahamas, and Lake Como in Italy. He has argued that these were legitimate business expenses.

As the corruption case has persisted, Mr. LaPierre’s supporters have diminished, with some of his most vocal critics arising from within the N.R.A.

Mr. Powell, the defendant who reached a settlement on Friday, previously held the position of the organization’s second-in-command, but subsequently turned against Mr. LaPierre’s leadership and even advocated for certain gun control measures, including universal background checks for gun purchasers.

“This departure has been long overdue after overseeing 30 years of corruption,” remarked Mr. Powell in an email regarding Mr. LaPierre’s resignation. “At this point, the N.R.A. is a mere shadow of its former self after incurring hundreds of millions in legal fees. The N.R.A. will require a new, robust leader to navigate its way out of the deep predicament it is in.”

Gun control groups expressed satisfaction at Mr. LaPierre’s resignation.

“Thoughts and prayers,” remarked Nick Suplina, a former senior adviser and special counsel at the attorney general’s office who now serves with the gun control advocacy group Everytown.

“I believe the attorney general sought the removal of Wayne LaPierre as the head of the N.R.A., and she has attained her objective,” he added.

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