In-Depth: Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) introduced this bill to protect U.S. elections from foreign interference:
“As the Mueller Report and the unanimous Intelligence Community Assessment of the United States indicated, Russia conducted a sophisticated campaign to subvert our democracy with the goal of electing Donald Trump and defeating Hillary Clinton. The Mueller Report revealed that the Russians effectuated their goals by selectively disseminating stolen emails, with the end of maximizing the adverse impact this would have on Secretary Clinton’s electoral prospects. The Mueller Report further indicated that Russia’s misinformation efforts also included the proliferation fake online profiles on social media platforms, with the goal of echoing and amplifying politically divisive messages, so as to sow discord within the electorate and suppress the vote for Secretary Clinton. As the Mueller Report lays bare, the Trump Campaign knew what Russia was doing and welcomed that assistance, did nothing to discourage it, did not report it, denied its existence and knowingly and happily accepted the benefits of the hostile foreign interference. While some may tolerate this as awful but lawful conduct, I do not because it is deeply corrosive and injurious to our democracy. That is why I have introduced H.R. 2353, the ‘Duty to Refuse and Report Foreign Interference in American Elections Act of 2019.’ Upon enactment, this legislation imposes an affirmative duty: (1) to refuse any offer of election campaign assistance from any agent or entity acting on behalf or in the interest of a foreign government; and (2) to report to the Federal Bureau of Investigation any such offer of assistance from an agent or entity acting on behalf or in the interest of a foreign government. This duty to refuse and report applies to candidates and any person working for, or volunteering with, a candidate for election to federal office. The Act also requires the Federal Election Commission to require that a candidate for election to federal office must certify quarterly that he or she is compliance with the above requirements. Violation of the Act carries a penalty of not more than 5 years in prison and a fine of not more than $250,000. The threat to our country is real, as documented in detail in the Mueller Report and confirmed by the unanimous assessment of our nation’s Intelligence Community. And we currently face ongoing threats to our electoral apparatus by malicious state actors. Just this week, for example, the New York Times reported that the President’s Chief of Staff discouraged former Secretary of Homeland Security Kristjen Nielsen from sharing with the President intelligence about the serious threats Russia poses to the 2020 elections. Together with our nation’s shared experience during the 2016 election, it is clear that the time to write into the statute books the sensible notion that American elections are to be decided by American citizens, not foreign adversaries.”
The Federal Election Campaign (FEC) prohibits foreign nationals from either “directly or indirectly” making “a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value” to a campaign. It also makes it illegal for people associated with political campaigns to “solicit, accept, or receive a contribution or donation” from a foreign national. Under current law, people who “knowingly and willfully engage” in prohibited activities with foreign nationals may be subject to an FEC enforcement action, criminal prosecution, or both. David Sklansky, a criminal law professor at Stanford, say this means that “[s]oliciting campaign assistance from a foreign agent is illegal.”
This bill has 31 Democratic cosponsors.
Of Note: After a lengthy investigation of interactions between the 2016 Trump presidential campaign and Russia, special counsel Robert Mueller concluded that while Russia sought to help Trump win the presidential election, the Trump campaign didn’t directly assist in the process. In his report, Mueller wrote:
“Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit form a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
However, while the Mueller report didn’t establish that the Trump campaign “criminally conspired on illegal Russian election interference” or “coordinated with Russia through either an active or tacit agreement,” it did prove that the Trump campaign was actively seeking to cultivate a relationship with the Russian government, and was willing to work with it to get damaging information about Trump’s political opponents.
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / vladans)