In a recent article published in The New York Times, Campaign Legal Center President Trevor Potter describes the high stakes of protecting our elections from foreign interference. “Other countries have their own interests, and those interests don’t always match ours, many countries are rivals of ours and of our democratic system.”
He explains: “At its most basic level, asking another government for help — whether a quid pro quo existed or not — means that Mr. Trump would find himself indebted to another country. Doing this in private is especially alarming, Potter said, because the Trump administration’s decision to even temporarily withhold military aid for a country that needs to arm itself against Russia goes directly against American national security interests. ‘If the president of Ukraine has agreed to do this, he has something to hold over the head of the president of the United States,” Potter said. “It indeed opens the president up to political blackmail.’”
The dangers of foreign interference are not new, but the dismissive reaction to it by President Donald Trump marks a break from how U.S. leaders have viewed the problem historically. When George H.W. Bush was approached with the recommendation to seek, from Russia or Britain, potentially damaging information on his rival during his 1992 presidential campaign, he said: “we absolutely could not do that.”
The public also widely understands the significance of foreign interference — an October 2019 poll found that 70% of all Americans say it matters “a lot” to them if a foreign country interferes in US elections.
CLC recently held a public education conference call, “Yes, Asking Foreign Governments for Political Favors Breaks the Law,” on foreign election interference, the president’s recent campaign finance violations, and abuses of power.
This post was written by Sheely Edwards, a 2019 CLC Hinckley intern, and student at the University of Utah.