Schiff introduces bill to strengthen law barring campaigns from accepting foreign dirt

A top House Democrat has introduced legislation designed to clarify and strengthen the federal law that bars political campaigns from accepting or receiving foreign assistance in an election.

The bill, spearheaded by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffHillicon Valley: Senate sets hearing on Facebook’s cryptocurrency plans | FTC reportedly investigating YouTube over children’s privacy | GOP senator riles tech with bill targeting liability shield | FAA pushed to approve drone deliveries Hillicon Valley: Senate sets hearing on Facebook’s cryptocurrency plans | FTC reportedly investigating YouTube over children’s privacy | GOP senator riles tech with bill targeting liability shield | FAA pushed to approve drone deliveries Democratic rep warns artificial intelligence is being used to ‘target vulnerable populations’ MORE (D-Calif.), would amend the Federal Election Campaign Act to clarify that “information sought or obtained for political advantage” qualifies as a thing of value that a campaign is prohibited from soliciting, accepting or receiving from a foreign national.

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The legislation would also mandate that an individual who knowingly and willfully violates the statute would be subject to a fine or jail time up to five years, or both. And it requires the Federal Election Commission to notify political committees of the prohibition swiftly after their formation.

Schiff introduced the legislation on Thursday, one week after President TrumpDonald John TrumpBooker hits Biden’s defense of remarks about segregationist senators: ‘He’s better than this’ Booker hits Biden’s defense of remarks about segregationist senators: ‘He’s better than this’ Trump says Democrats are handing out subpoenas ‘like they’re cookies’ MORE triggered widespread criticism for suggesting to ABC News that he would accept foreign dirt on his 2020 opponents and wouldn’t notify the FBI. 

Trump later walked back the remarks, saying he would notify the FBI if the information was “bad” but that he would still look at it. 

Schiff said Thursday that the legislation would “make it crystal clear that seeking or obtaining foreign assistance in the form of dirt on an opponent from a foreign power or foreign national is illegal.”

“Seeking foreign assistance in a political campaign is unethical, unpatriotic, and wrong – this bill will reinforce that it’s also illegal,” Schiff said.

Schiff’s bill would require the Federal Election Commission to provide a political committee with a written explanation of the statute within 30 days of the committee filing its statement of organization. 

Any political committee would be required thereafter to certify to the commission that it received the explanation and provided copies of it to its members, also within 30 days. 

Schiff said his legislation is designed to complement legislation introduced by Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerFacebook’s new cryptocurrency raises red flags for critics Facebook’s new cryptocurrency raises red flags for critics Hillicon Valley: Senate sets hearing on Facebook’s cryptocurrency plans | FTC reportedly investigating YouTube over children’s privacy | GOP senator riles tech with bill targeting liability shield | FAA pushed to approve drone deliveries MORE (D-Va.) and others that would require campaigns to report foreign interference. 

Warner introduced the proposal as an amendment to the annual defense policy legislation earlier this week.

Schiff said his legislation was drafted in response to special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerKamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have ‘no choice’ but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have ‘no choice’ but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump MORE’s report.

In response to Schiff’s introduction of the legislation, a Trump campaign spokesperson said: “Adam Schiff eagerly took a phone call from Russians promising dirt about President Trump. In congressional hearings Schiff repeatedly cited the discredited Steele dossier, which itself relied on sources close to the Kremlin. His hypocrisy is off the charts.”

In his more than 400-page report, Mueller wrote that he considered charging Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpThe Hill’s 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — Trump jumps into 2020 race The Hill’s 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — Trump jumps into 2020 race Trump lashes out at Democrats over Hope Hicks testimony MORE and others in connection with the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer that they arranged after being offered damaging information on Trump’s Democratic opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrats bristle as Hicks appears for daylong Capitol Hill testimony Democrats bristle as Hicks appears for daylong Capitol Hill testimony Trump: ‘So sad’ Democrats are putting Hope Hicks ‘through hell’ MORE. The participants say the meeting never bore fruit.

Mueller wrote that he decided against charging the participants with campaign-finance violations because of the high bar of proving they “knowingly and willfully” intended to break the law, and because of the difficulty of proving information offered constituted a “thing of value.”

 

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