Trump ABC Interview Demonstrates ‘Shocking Lack of Concern’ for Threat of Foreign Interference in Elections
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump was asked by ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos yesterday whether his campaign would accept damaging information against his 2020 rivals from foreigners – such as China or Russia – or report such an offer to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Trump said, “I think you might want to listen, there isn’t anything wrong with listening. If somebody called from a country [and said] ‘we have information on your opponent’ – oh, I think I’d want to hear it.” In the interview, Trump suggested that there is nothing wrong with a foreign government providing an American candidate information on a political opponent.
Trevor Potter, President of the Campaign Legal Center (CLC), and a former Republican Chairman of the Federal Election Commission, released the following statement in response:
“The President’s statement demonstrates a shocking lack of concern about the harm of foreign interference in American elections. By indicating his willingness to consider accepting opposition research from foreigners, President Trump is opening the door even wider to foreign meddling in the 2020 election, and demonstrating that he has learned nothing from 2016. When foreign governments or citizens intervene in American elections to help a candidate, they may well seek something in return. At a minimum, they are acting in their own interests, not ours. With the Mueller report now public, President Trump and other candidates are on notice that soliciting or accepting valuable foreign intelligence for domestic campaign purposes violates existing federal campaign finance law.”
The Mueller report concluded that opposition research is a “thing of value” subject to the foreign national contribution ban. As Mueller explained, “a foreign entity that engaged in [opposition] 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.” Mueller determined that Donald Trump Jr. setting up a meeting to accept “high level and sensitive” opposition research from a foreign government could violate the federal prohibition on soliciting a contribution from a person he knew was a foreign national. Although factual questions about Trump Jr.’s state of mind and the value of the opposition research led Muller not to pursue criminal charges, that determination does not alter the illegality of soliciting or accepting valuable opposition research from a foreign national. The FEC may still seek civil penalties for the violation as alleged in the complaint filed by CLC, Common Cause and Democracy 21 about this matter, which was supplemented after the release of the report. It is still pending and has not yet been resolved.
CLC released a report in May: What Special Counsel Mueller’s Report Tells Us About Campaign Finance Law And Foreign Interference