Warner: Campaigns should start reporting foreign contacts to FBI

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

Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerTrump puts GOP in tough spot with remarks on foreign 'dirt' Trump puts GOP in tough spot with remarks on foreign 'dirt' Hillicon Valley: Tim Cook visits White House | House hearing grapples with deepfake threat | Bill, Melinda Gates launch lobbying group | Tech turns to K-Street in antitrust fight | Lawsuit poses major threat to T-Mobile, Sprint merger MORE (D-Va.) argued Thursday that while 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 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 StoneHouse panel subpoenas Flynn, Gates House panel subpoenas Flynn, Gates Court orders release of sealed documents in mysterious Mueller grand jury case 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 McConnellOvernight Defense: Trump doubles down on claim Iran attacked tankers | Iran calls accusations 'alarming' | Top nuke official quietly left Pentagon | Pelosi vows Congress will block Saudi arms sale Overnight Defense: Trump doubles down on claim Iran attacked tankers | Iran calls accusations 'alarming' | Top nuke official quietly left Pentagon | Pelosi vows Congress will block Saudi arms sale McConnell defends Trump amid backlash: 'He gets picked at every day' 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 KlobucharHillicon Valley: Hacker group targeted electric grid | House Democrats press CBP over facial recognition program | Senators offer bill to protect health data | Groups file FCC complaint over carriers' use of location data Hillicon Valley: Hacker group targeted electric grid | House Democrats press CBP over facial recognition program | Senators offer bill to protect health data | Groups file FCC complaint over carriers' use of location data It's time to let Medicare to negotiate drug prices MORE (D-Minn.) and James LankfordJames Paul LankfordOvernight Defense: Trump hails D-Day veterans in Normandy | Trump, Macron downplay rift on Iran | Trump mourns West Point cadet's death in accident | Pentagon closes review of deadly Niger ambush Trump hails D-Day veterans in Normandy: 'You are the pride of our nation' Hillicon Valley: Mueller remarks put spotlight on election security bills | US to ask visa applicants for social media info | Tech blasts Trump tariffs on Mexico 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 TrumpDC board rejects Trump Hotel effort to dismiss complaint seeking removal of liquor license on basis of Trump's 'character' DC board rejects Trump Hotel effort to dismiss complaint seeking removal of liquor license on basis of Trump's 'character' Mexico's immigration chief resigns amid US pressure over migrants 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.”