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

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

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 SchiffAre Democrats turning Trump-like? Schiff offers bill to make domestic terrorism a federal crime New intel chief inherits host of challenges 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 TrumpO'Rourke: Trump driving global, U.S. economy into recession Manchin: Trump has 'golden opportunity' on gun reforms Objections to Trump's new immigration rule wildly exaggerated 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 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.) 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 MuellerTrump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony Kellyanne Conway: 'I'd like to know' if Mueller read his own report MORE’s report.

In his more than 400-page report, Mueller wrote that he considered charging Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpDick Cheney to attend fundraiser supporting Trump reelection: report House chairman warns foreign governments to 'cease and desist' spending money at Trump properties Chris Cuomo: 'I should be better than the guys baiting me' 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 ClintonLewandowski on potential NH Senate run: If I run, 'I'm going to win' Fighter pilot vs. astronaut match-up in Arizona could determine control of Senate Progressive Democrats' turnout plans simply don't add up 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.”

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."