In the campaign finance world, a “contribution” is any “thing of value” given to affect an election, and federal law prohibits anybody from soliciting a contribution from a foreign national to an American political campaign.
There is no doubt that a foreign government’s search for damaging information about a candidate’s political opponent would be valuable to that candidate. As Special Counsel Mueller noted, “[a] foreign entity that engaged in such research and provided resulting information to a campaign could exert a greater effect on an election, and a greater tendency to ingratiate the donor to the candidate, than a gift of money or tangible things of value.”
The whistleblower’s account of the July 25, 2019 call between President Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine has been corroborated by a summary of the call released by the White House. In particular, the call summary indicates that, with congressional aid for Ukraine on hold, Trump told Zelensky that U.S. support for his country has not always been “reciprocal,” and then asked Zelensky for a “favor”: to work with Trump’s personal attorney, Rudolph Giuliani, as well as the U.S. Attorney General, to investigate Trump’s potential 2020 rival, Joe Biden.
These facts not only reflect a startling abuse of executive power; they also unambiguously demonstrate that Trump broke the law by soliciting valuable assistance to his reelection efforts from a foreign government.
Campaign Legal Center has been on this case since July 2018, when we first uncovered how two Ukrainian-Americans had laundered a six-figure contribution to President Trump’s super PAC through a shell corporation. CLC's complaint helped trigger a series of events that revealed how the pair had leveraged the access their contribution afforded to deepen a relationship with the president’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and to push the same theories about Ukraine and the Biden family that President Trump adopted in his call with Ukraine’s president.
Giuliani’s involvement in official United States foreign affairs matters is additionally problematic. As Trump’s personal lawyer, he is not officially a federal employee. This means that, even as he insists to foreign actors that his work is not only officially sanctioned by the president but assisted by the State Department, he can sidestep legal ethics obligations that would require transparency of the foreign or domestic interests who are paying him.