Warner: Campaigns should start reporting foreign contacts to FBI

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

Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSenate passes bill to undo tax increase on Gold Star military families Dem senator introduces bill requiring campaigns to report foreign contacts Overnight Defense: Congressional leaders receive classified briefing on Iran | Trump on war: 'I hope not' | Key Republican calls threats credible | Warren plan targets corporate influence at Pentagon MORE (D-Va.) argued Thursday that while special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerHouse progressive: Pelosi 'has it right' on impeachment Democrats talk subpoena for Mueller Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna: 'I'm not there yet' on impeachment 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 StoneRoger Stone considers suing to discover if he was spied on by FBI Stone claims unfair prosecution by Mueller Democrats are running out of stunts to pull from impeachment playbook 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 McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push Iraq War looms over Trump battle with Iran 2020 Dems break political taboos by endorsing litmus tests 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 KlobucharHarris seeks Iowa edge with army of volunteers GOP senators split over antitrust remedies for big tech Fox's Brit Hume fires back at Trump's criticism of the channel MORE (D-Minn.) and James LankfordJames Paul LankfordBipartisan group of senators introduce legislation designed to strengthen cybersecurity of voting systems Dems push to revive Congress' tech office US-China trade talks end without announcement of deal 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 TrumpTrump rips Dems' demands, impeachment talk: 'Witch Hunt continues!' Nevada Senate passes bill that would give Electoral College votes to winner of national popular vote The Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push 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.”