Democrats ask GOP to join pledge not to use 'stolen information' in 2020 campaigns

Democrats ask GOP to join pledge not to use 'stolen information' in 2020 campaigns
© Greg Nash

Tom PerezThomas Edward PerezClinton’s top five vice presidential picks Government social programs: Triumph of hope over evidence Labor’s 'wasteful spending and mismanagement” at Workers’ Comp MORE, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, on Monday pledged that his party would not seek out or weaponize “stolen information” in 2020 elections and encouraged his Republican counterpart to do the same.

“As the leaders of our country’s two largest political parties, we have a responsibility to protect the integrity of our democratic process,” Perez wrote in an open letter to Ronna Romney McDaniel, the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee (RNC).

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“That’s why I urge you to join me in condemning the weaponization of stolen private data in our electoral process,” he added.

Questions about the role stolen private data and hacked information played in the 2016 presidential election have continued to swirl in the years since. But despite calls to clamp down on the weaponization of such material, lawmakers have made little headway on legislation on the matter.

Perez’s blog post came days after the Justice Department released a report detailing special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSpeier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump Gowdy: I '100 percent' still believe public congressional hearings are 'a circus' Comey: Mueller 'didn't succeed in his mission because there was inadequate transparency' MORE’s investigation into the Russian government’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.

That report confirmed what officials had warned about for over two years: that Moscow was behind a sweeping effort to influence the race between President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive landmark moments of testimony to Congress Lindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight Democrats sharpen their message on impeachment MORE and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonFive landmark moments of testimony to Congress Top diplomat said request for specific probes in Ukraine was 'contrary' to US policy Feehery: What Republicans must do to adapt to political realignment MORE that included the theft of private emails.

The report also detailed several contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russians, but ultimately concluded that those interactions did not establish evidence of a crime.

Without a pledge from both parties to shun hacked or stolen information, Perez warned, Republicans and Democrats risk a repeat of the 2016 election cycle.

“We are now rapidly approaching Election Day 2020. In this age of cyber-warfare, we owe it to the American people to make sure that the election is decided by the will of the voters, not foreign governments,” Perez wrote.

A spokeswoman for the RNC noted that McDaniel has previously denounced the hacking of political organizations and the importance of securing U.S. elections against outside interference, pointing to a July 2018 statement from the chair.

"Any breach of our political organizations — regardless of party — is an affront to all of us, and we should come together as Americans to prevent it from ever happening again," McDaniel said. "It’s important we do all we can to safeguard our future elections."

Democrats and Republicans have in the past sought to address the issue of stolen information as a political weapon.

Last year, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) attempted to hammer out a pact condemning the use of hacked information on the campaign trail.

But those talks ultimately broke down after then-NRCC Chairman Steve StiversSteven (Steve) Ernst StiversWaters clashes with Trump officials over 'disastrous' housing plans Financial sector's work on SAFE Banking Act shows together, everyone achieves more GOP ratchets up 2020 attacks as impeachment storm grows MORE (R-Ohio) accused his Democratic counterpart, Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), of speaking to the press in order to obtain “leverage” in the discussions.

Luján eventually signed such a pledge himself and called on Stivers to do the same, though the Ohio Republican never did so.

Perez said that he hoped that 2020 “can be different.”

“This is not about red and blue. This is about red, white, and blue,” he wrote. “It’s about our national security. It’s about the future of our country and the integrity of our democracy. It’s about restoring people’s faith in our institutions and our election process.”

One Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandSenate panel clears controversial Trump court pick Advocates step up efforts for horse racing reform bill after more deaths Harris proposes keeping schools open for 10 hours a day MORE (D-N.Y.), has already taken a similar pledge to not use stolen or hacked material in her campaign. She called on Tuesday for her opponents to follow suit.

“For my part, I vow that our campaign will not seek out stolen hacked information from foreign adversaries or knowingly weaponize such materials, and I urge my colleagues in the 2020 field to join in signing this pledge,” Gillibrand said.

“Together we can send a clear message to those who seek to harm our democracy — at home and abroad."

— Updated at 12:17 p.m.