Warner: Campaigns should start reporting foreign contacts to FBI

Warner: Campaigns should start reporting foreign contacts to FBI
© Greg Nash

Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerFacebook users in lawsuit say company failed to warn them of known risks before 2018 breach New intel chief inherits host of challenges Overnight Defense: US, Russia tensions grow over nuclear arms | Highlights from Esper's Asia trip | Trump strikes neutral tone on Hong Kong protests | General orders ethics review of special forces MORE (D-Va.) argued Thursday that while special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerMueller report fades from political conversation Trump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony MORE did not establish that the Trump campaign conspired with Russia during the 2016 election, extensive foreign contacts in future elections should be considered conspiracy.

Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, weighed in on the findings from Mueller's special counsel probe during a Brookings Institution event while touting his Senate panel's own probe into Russia's election interference, calling it “the last remaining bipartisan investigation there is.”

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“I will accept Bob Mueller’s version that even though there were 100 contacts between Russians and the Trump Organization or the Trump campaign, even though the Trump campaign manager gave classified or secret polling data to a known Russian agent, even though Roger StoneRoger Jason Stone3 real problems Republicans need to address to win in 2020 Judge rejects Stone's request to dismiss charges Judge dismisses DNC lawsuit against Trump campaign, Russia over election interference MORE acted as a conduit for WikiLeaks to dump hacked emails ... even if all of that didn’t rise to the level of conspiracy charge, on a going-forward basis, it should," Warner said.

Going forward, Warner argued that campaigns should have an “affirmative obligation” to report to the FBI any contacts with foreign officials or entities like those detailed in Mueller's report. He also called on Congress to pass election security legislation such as the Secure Elections Act, which didn’t see action last Congress.

“The fact that we haven’t said to states that if you want federal money, you have got to have a paper trail … that is crazy that we don’t put rules in place,” Warner said.

Warner said that were it to be reintroduced, the Secure Elections Act “would get 85 votes on the floor of the U.S. Senate today if we didn’t have the White House and Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP group calls on Republican senators to stand up to McConnell on election security in new ads The Hill's Morning Report - Trump hews to NRA on guns and eyes lower taxes Hobbled NRA shows strength with Trump MORE trying to impede it from even getting to the floor.”

The bill, which had bipartisan support from co-sponsors including Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharSenate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill The Hill's Morning Report - Trump hews to NRA on guns and eyes lower taxes Harris to appear in CNN climate town hall after backlash MORE (D-Minn.) and James LankfordJames Paul LankfordGOP group calls on Republican senators to stand up to McConnell on election security in new ads Hillicon Valley: GOP hits back over election security bills | Ratcliffe out for intel chief | Social media companies consider policies targeting 'deepfakes' | Capital One, GitHub sued over breach The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden camp feels boost after Detroit debate MORE (R-Okla.) in the last Congress, would have given states more resources to protect their voting systems, among other provisions.

Warner cited not having election security legislation as encouraging foreign countries such as Russia and China to interfere in U.S. elections, as this “shows we’re not doing enough to even protect our own values and protect our own systems.”

During his Brookings appearance Thursday, Warner also sounded the alarm around cyber espionage threats from China and called for a new trade-deal effort that included language aimed at cutting down on these types of threats.

Warner criticized President TrumpDonald John Trump Former US ambassador: 'Denmark is not a big fan of Donald Trump and his politics' Senate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill Detroit county sheriff endorses Booker for president MORE for his “insatiable effort to declare victory even when there might not be a victory in hand,” predicting it could lead to a trade deal with China that may not address questions around intellectual property.

“In a world that moves increasingly at internet speed, we can’t wait until we have all the answers to wake up to this challenge,” Warner said of the threats posed by China. “We have to figure out how to protect ourselves, how to compete, and how to make sure that we are able to take advantage in a global landscape with China increasingly important to us, because the one thing we do know is that China has a plan.”